Last Sunday, the N.Y. Giants concluded their disappointing 2015 campaign with a 35-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Met Life Stadium. After rallying from an early 14-3 deficit, the Giants led 27-21 late in the 3rd quarter and were deep in Eagles’ territory looking to take a commanding two-score lead. But, the Eagles were able to hit Giant QB Eli Manning as he was attempting to pass at the Eagle 17-yard line and forced a fumble that DB Walter Thurmond returned 83 yards for a go-ahead TD. The Giants added a FG later to close the gap to 5, but were unable to move the ball on the final drive of the contest. Giants’ RB Rashad Jennings had the most productive day of the season for a Giants’ RB, rushing 27 times for 170 yards, and 1 TD.
On Monday, after 12 years at the helm, Future Hall of Fame Coach Tom Coughlin stepped down as Giants’ Head Coach. Originally from Waterloo, NY, and a former Syracuse University football player, Coughlin had a regular season mark with the Giants of 102-90 with 3 Division Titles (2005, 2008, 2011) and 5 Playoff Appearances (2005-2008, 2011). With an 8-3 playoff record, he led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots following the ’07 and ’11 seasons, winning Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI.
The response of his current and former players following Coach Coughlin’s announcement on Monday spoke volumes about the relationships he cultivated with his players and throughout the organization. His farewell press conference on Tuesday was one to remember, and his words truly spoke as much to the game of life, as they did with football. First off, true to his style, the 10:30 am press conference started on “Coughlin time” – fittingly, 5 minutes early, at 10:25 am.
Coughlin talked about how relationships on and off the field truly defined his time as Coach, and that he truly was honored to be part of the Giant organization for 15 years (in addition to his 12 years as HC, Coughlin was the WR’s coach for Bill Parcells from 1988-1990, to include Super Bowl XXV). Talking to his players and members of the organization that were in attendance, he talked about how “we lose together”, and that “when we win, it’s you who get and deserve the credit”. It was classic Coach Coughlin – honest, direct, and instructional – as he discussed his run as HC of the Giants and the state of today’s NFL. Whether you are a Giant fan or not, seeing QB Eli Manning’s emotional reaction to the words of the only HC he has known in his 12-year NFL career told you everything you need to know about Coach Coughlin, and what the Giants were about during this very successful era in their storied history. It was more than just the game of football, and much of it was about dealing with the struggles of daily life and the realities of the world.
And to cap it off, Coughlin’s departure from the stage — his conclusion of “are you really going to ask me questions?” to the assembled pool of reporters, followed by his rapid and focused exit from the podium while ignoring (intentionally or not) Giant owner / CEO John Mara – were all true to his impeccable, determined, and resolute character.
Coughlin did not “necessarily” rule out coaching again, so it is somewhat unclear if this will be his last time on an NFL sideline after 20 years with the both the Jacksonville Jaguars (1995-2002) and Giants (2004-2015). It’s hard to say where he’ll go next, but he still appears to have the desire to coach. I’ve always thought that Coach Coughlin would have made a great coach at a Service Academy…stay tuned.
Somewhat controversial across the fan base, owner John Mara elected to retain GM Jerry Reese. Reese has received much of the criticism for the Giants’ eroding talent base since their last Super Bowl run in 2011, with some it specifically focused at several unfruitful drafts (notably in ’09, ’10, ’12). Mr. Mara stated that he has faith in Jerry Reese and that the 2-time Super Bowl winning GM is capable of moving the franchise forward and returning it to division and playoff contention. Reese has plenty of work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Giants need an infusion of talent. But, both Reese and the new coach have the most important building block: a franchise QB. Eli Manning had an excellent season in 2015, throwing 387-for-618, with 4,436 yds, 35 TDs and 14 INTs. Manning is still in his prime, having just turned 35 last Sunday, and he remains coupled with a dynamic young playmaker in WR Odell Beckham, Jr., who had 96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 TDs during his sophomore season in ’15 – it’s a good place to start.
Head Coach Search: Mr. Mara and GM Jerry Reese will lead the process to find the next Giants’ HC. With its stable leadership and success on the field, the Giants have only had 5 coaches since 1983 – so, the job does not open often and when it does, it gets the attention of the industry. The Giants interviewed Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo on Tuesday. On Thursday, Mara and Reese interviewed Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Lions’ Defense Coordinator Teryl Austin.
Reports indicate that the Giants plan to interview Bears’ OC Adam Gase, Jaguars’ Offensive Line Coach/former Bills and Syracuse HC Doug Marrone, and Panthers’ DC Sean McDermott. New Orleans’ HC Sean Payton – a former Giant OC – elected to remain with the Saints. Dark horse candidate thought: former Atlanta Falcons’ HC Mike Smith (2008-2014); Smith was highly successful in Atlanta, has a defensive background, and had success with QB Matt Ryan.
As the search moves forward, the Giants are in competition with the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – all have HC openings.
Analysis: Historically, the Giants do not chase “big name” coaches. Going back to the days of Hall of Fame Owner Wellington Mara and GM George Young, the Giants look for HC’s with energy and something to prove. With that in mind, and with most of the names on their interview lists being Coordinators, I would expect the Giants to take a long look at their own OC, Ben McAdoo. In his two years as OC, the Giants have improved under his watch – and most notably, QB Eli Manning rebounded after a poor season in 2013. In 2015, the Giant offense ranked among the best in the NFL, finishing 6th in scoring and 8th in yardage. Continuity is important, and if the Giants move forward with McAdoo there also the chance that Spagnuolo returns as DC; both are well-liked by the Giants’ ownership. I would give the early edge here to McAdoo.
Mike Lalor can be heard talking about New York sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. His blog can be found at SpadoraonSports.com.