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Keidel: Coughlin Is One Of The Great Coaches, Just Not Anymore

By Jason Keidel
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This is the doomed day of eulogies.

Despite Gang Green's stunning upset over my beloved black & gold, the Jets' season ended a month ago. It was oddly poignant because you could stomp on my virtual back in the process, but it doesn't change the grim reality that the Jets are still a wretched football team.

But even if we weren't Big Blue devotees, we New Yorkers could take some provincial pride in the Giants.

And for three quarters, it looked like the classic, Big Blue, blue collar toughness would keep them in the playoff hunt, on the road, against the Super Bowl champions. But they were mauled by Marshawn Lynch, by Beast Mode, by the reality that the Giants just aren't a good football team.

So we're stuck with the corporate coda of Big Blue's patriarch, Bill Parcells, who asserts you are what your record states you are.

And at 3-6 the Giants are woefully lost in the lower half of the NFL, which assures those in the five boroughs and beyond a most flawed and frigid winter. Sadly, this is not an anomaly. The Giants are 19-22 since they won the Super Bowl three years ago, which led Mike Francesa to ask the question du jour.

Is it time for Tom Coughlin to hang up his headset?

Most of us have the noble impulse to avoid calling for a coach's vocational head. It means more than swapping sideline attire for a fishing pole or golf club. It's an entire staff, a stack of pink slips, a wide swath of displaced wives and children, finding new homes and schools and jobs.

But as we're often reminded, the NFL is a business, and it's pro forma in pro football to jettison players -- and coaches -- who can't cut it. Forgive the endless alliteration, but Coach Coughlin isn't cutting it anymore.

And it's probably fair to say that if it were anyone but Coughlin prowling the sideline, he would have been canned by now. No doubt he's he earned the latitude from fans and largesse from ownership. Two Lombardi Trophies gets you a way longer leash than, say, the fella in Chicago, who can't keep Jay Cutler from coughing up the ball and has seen the Monsters of the Midway mutate into the Bad News Bears.

We can only live on the faerie dust of nostalgia for so long, on the confetti-soaked memories of two Super Bowl rings and parades and the rock-solid, sacred duet of the HC and QB. For the better part of a decade, we felt that as long as the Giants had Coughlin and Eli Manning, they would find a way to make it work, that the rest of the squad would simply follow their bedrock leadership.

But that's clearly not the case anymore. The team is inert, if not in full reverse. Turns out that the old salt mattered, that Strahan and Tuck and Pierce and Osi leading a rabid rush down Brady's back was just as important as Eli's historic contortions when he wrenched himself free and found David Tyree.

The Giants only scored 17 points in that Super Bowl, holding the pyrotechnic Patriots to just two touchdowns, when they were dropping 40 every weekend on any defense in the sport. Our eyes are always stuck on the glamour boys, the skill players, the sleek, speedy runners and receivers and the tall, thin man in the middle of the huddle who holds the ball on every snap. We forget the shovel-wielding linemen who make all the glitzy highlights possible.

While it's obvious that the new, pass-happy, anarchic laws of the land allow for more passing plays than ever, defense still matters. Just look at last year's Super Bowl. Eli's brother was stomping on defenses like Godzilla. Peyton Manning was good for 300 yards and three TDs before the coin flip.

Until Seattle strutted into Eli's building and owned it. The muscular, vascular, and violent Seahawks won the game in one play -- Kam Chancellor's thunderous hit on Demaryius Thomas. As he snagged Manning's short ball across the middle, the very large Thomas was blasted by the monstrously large Seattle safety, and MetLife morphed into an echo chamber of tackling and referendum on intimidation.

And so perpetuated the Peyton typecast as the greatest regular-season signal-caller in history -- a rather backhanded compliment or transparent insult as an epic choke artist.

For whatever reason, Eli wasn't born with an emotionally brittle bone in his body. He's barely half the player his brother is, yet he may very well retire with more rings. It's just one of those things, along with the sad happenstance of Peyton running into the Patriots at their peak.

It's not trendy to declare this today, but Eli will join his brother in the Hall of Fame. Jim Plunkett is the only QB with two rings but no bronze bust. Eli, a two-time Super Bowl MVP and will finish with exponentially better numbers than Plunkett, won't have that issue.

Neither will Coughlin. He molded the moribund Jaguars into contenders and doubled Big Blue's stack of trophies. He will have more regular-season and Super Bowl wins than many of the coaches already wearing the yellow jackets of Canton. Bud Grant and Marv Levy didn't win one NFL championship. John Madden and Hank Stram have one. Coughlin has 161 wins. Joe Gibbs has 154. Bill Walsh has 92.

Coughlin isn't necessarily better (or even as good) as the aforementioned icons. But Coughlin is iconic. We just don't relate to him -- the ornery, red-faced grandpa who never smiles, gives a candid quote, or has ever embraced the media. He speaks in military metaphors. Even his first week here he fired an angry missive, implying that injuries were a thing of the mind.

But never mind his grumpy persona. Coughlin is one of the greats. He just isn't great anymore. Francesa said he would have no issue with the Giants canning their head coach, even midseason. Seems a bit harsh. But this is a harsh business. And no one knows that better than Coach Coughlin.

We all knew his time would come. But has it come today?

Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonKeidel

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