Giant boot? Coach Coughlin could be in trouble
Tom Coughlin should start
working on his résumé after New York's embarrassing loss to the Saints Sunday.
End of the road?
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
December 24, 2006
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is writing his coaching obituary this season, Sunday will be the epitaph for the tombstone.
In a game his team needed, in front of a home crowd and in the midst of running back Tiki Barber's Meadowlands sendoff, Coughlin's Giants lost to the New Orleans Saints 30-7. The loss, New York's most embarrassing defeat since last season's 23-0 home playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers, not only put the team's playoff hopes in jeopardy but punctuated two seasons' worth of problems – from the ongoing struggles of quarterback Eli Manning to undisciplined play and an overall lack of focus.
"It wasn't a good product. It was an embarrassing product," said Barber, who earlier in the campaign announced he would retire at season's end. "We're driving for the playoffs, and we didn't show up today. … It's frustrating. It's disappointing. And it's unacceptable."
The Giants' offense never took a single snap in New Orleans territory. The unit would have come up empty had it not been for a 55-yard touchdown catch-and-run by wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who benefited from Saints cornerback Fred Thomas falling down in coverage.
Part of the reason for the Giants' lack of movement was the dropped passes (at least eight) by the wideouts. That played a large role in Manning completing only three of his last 19 attempts.
Making matters worse, the Giants committed three costly personal-foul penalties (including two by offensive tackle Bob Whitfield), and the run defense, a strength entering the game, was shredded for 236 rushing yards – including 100-yard games for both Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.
Add it all up and it spells trouble for Coughlin, who had fans chanting for his job as the game drew to a close. What once seemed like solid coaching ground for Coughlin suddenly seems remarkably shaky. The franchise already is in the midst of a change at general manager, with the organization currently conducting in-house interviews for the outgoing Ernie Accorsi's job. But even if Accorsi's replacement comes from the internal pool of candidates, Coughlin's future is looking more ominous.
Coughlin openly has criticized Manning twice already – after losses to Tennessee on Nov. 26 and Philadelphia last week. And though his locker rooms always have had an element of unrest, the atmosphere around the Giants has seemed to nosedive since last season's playoff loss. That defeat was accentuated by Barber's criticism of the coaching staff and wideout Plaxico Burress skipping Coughlin's mandatory one-on-one exit meeting. The ugliness only worsened this season, with barbs coming at various points from Burress, Barber, tight end Jeremy Shockey and defensive end Michael Strahan.
Now Coughlin is staring at back-to-back meltdowns, having gone 1-6 since this season's 6-2 start. While New York still occupies the NFC's second wild-card spot, it has opened the door for a runoff with Green Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis and Carolina. Making matters worse, what appeared to be a cupcake season finale at Washington suddenly looks like a major hurdle. And unlike last season's struggles, this doesn't appear to be a team that can count on Barber to carry the offense, which makes Manning's plummet (eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in his last seven games) all the more problematic. A second-half disaster for the second straight season, Manning's confidence appears to be seriously damaged, if not shot entirely. And so may be the Giants' postseason bid.
As Coughlin succinctly put it Sunday, "We're certainly not proud of what happened today. I don't have any great, philosophical statements for you. But we do have one game to play. We do have an opportunity to be 8-8. Is it going to be easy? Of course not."
After Sunday, the same could be said for Coughlin keeping his job.
Charles Robinson is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.