Commentary

TC leads banged-up Giants by example

Tom Coughlin takes a lickin' during Jets game, but has Big Blue tickin' as finale nears

Updated: December 27, 2011, 10:58 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

In the past week, Tom Coughlin reminded everyone, including his own team, what he is all about.

The New York Giants coach responded to Rex Ryan's barking with his old mantra, "Talk is cheap; play the game."

He sat down with team leaders such as Justin Tuck to make sure that everybody was all-in and that, with the Giants' season hanging in the balance, players turned in their best week of practice with a laser-like focus.

"Our team practiced like wild men all week long," safety Antrel Rolle said on his weekly radio appearance on WFAN. "We had an outstanding [week of] practice ... an electrifying [week of] practice."

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTom Coughlin's leg must be aching this week at practice, but he won't let his players know it.

Then, during the Giants' 29-14 win over the mouthy Jets, Coughlin injured his left leg when running back D.J. Ware was inadvertently shoved into him.

The 65-year-old coach clearly was in pain and probably still is, given that he walked to his Monday news conference with a visible limp and slowly stepped up a short flight of stairs with a stiff leg.

But, in the biggest week of the Giants' season, Coughlin refused to go to the hospital to undergo an MRI or have any other tests done.

Coughlin might be stubborn, but the message he is sending to his team is clear: Nothing will stand in the way of his doing everything he can to beat the Cowboys.

And the message was received.

"We are all all-in," Tuck said. "And Coach Coughlin is the same as all of us. I know that knee, that leg is banged up a little bit. But he wasn't showing any ill effects [on Monday]. [Coughlin] came in excited about the opportunity this week."

"That's 65 years of wisdom I guess," Tuck said of Coughlin's methods to inspire his team. "He knows how to push the right buttons at the right time."

The Giants (8-7) have won just two of their past seven games since getting off to a 6-2 start. But they still control their fate, and one more win over the Dallas Cowboys will earn them the NFC East title.

Coughlin showed this past week against the Jets that his actions resonate and that the team still responds to him.

If Coughlin is coaching for his job -- and there has been no indication from Giants brass that he is -- ownership certainly noticed and appreciated the coach's effort this past week.

"He is never going to give up," team CEO and owner John Mara said about Coughlin after the win over the Jets. "He seems to be at his best when everybody puts his back against the wall."

"You have to kill him to keep him down," Mara said, referring to Coughlin's injury.

Coughlin's job security seems to be a topic every December. A loss to Dallas would keep the Giants out of the postseason for a third straight year. But ownership always seems to be looking for reasons to keep Coughlin rather than reasons to find a new head coach.

Mara admitted he wanted to beat the Jets badly, and Coughlin helped deliver the win in a fashion ownership prefers.

"I was proud of the way our players kept their emotions under control," Mara said. "I know they wanted this. They were jacked up all week. I could tell by the way they practiced and they kept their emotions under control."

"[And] let's just say I wanted this game," Mara said.

Coughlin refused to get caught up in Ryan's war of words this past week. He got his team focused; he got Tuck to play his best game with a heart-to-heart sit-down and three players -- Rolle, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Corey Webster -- all played more than 100 snaps against the Jets.

"Three guys played over 100 snaps because it was all hands on deck," Coughlin said. "We had to have it, and those guys volunteered, came forward, wanted to be a part of it. They certainly, again, set a great example for the rest of our team."

Consistency has been a problem this season for the up-and-down Giants. Playing two games in a row with all-out effort and intensity has been almost as hard as staying healthy. They've been rocked by injuries to players such as cornerback Terrell Thomas, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff and defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

But as the season comes down to the wire, it appears Coughlin and his players are on the same page. The message this Monday to his team was the same as the one the previous Monday: Put aside everything -- injuries or any distractions -- and give the team everything you've got this week.

Win or lose, Rolle says he has really come to understand his coach.

"I've learned a lot," Rolle said. "Nothing I'm going to really expose, but I've learned a lot from Year 1 to Year 2. And we all have our mind set on the same thing, which is go out there and win."

Rolle discovered another thing about his coach this past Sunday after Ware ran into Coughlin.

"He's a soldier," Rolle said.

Tuck hopes there will be many more sit-downs with Coughlin.

"It resonated," Tuck said. "It is not the first time we have talked, and hopefully it won't be the last."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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