Watch CBS News

Keidel: Regardless Of How It Turns Out, Coughlin's Next Stop Is Canton

By Jason Keidel
» More Columns

A foul thing happened to a fine coach on Sunday.

The New York Giants couldn't summon the strength or courage or competence to win Tom Coughlin's swan song on the sideline.

So it seems we will never see the red-faced, full-throated Coughlin cuss, cajole, or coach an NFL team ever again.

MORE: Palladino: Giants Should Allow Coughlin To Think Fate Lies In His Hands

And, as odd as it sounds, I'm still not sure why. He doesn't lack dedication or energy. He has more moxie and adrenaline at 69 than most folks have at 49.

Maybe it's not a matter of dedication. Maybe it's a matter of personnel. Or maybe Coughlin just doesn't have it anymore. How are we to know if or when such a thing happens to a coach, in any sport? If the hallmarks of a leader are respect, then Coughlin is still a gridiron general of the highest order.

Boomer Esiason spoke to it Monday morning. Every Coughlin eulogy comes with a caveat, the preamble, "He's a great guy, but..." And Boomer was right. No coach has represented a team, town, or time better than the HC of the NYG. Fans cherish him, players adore him, and the media admires him.

Indeed, who can they hire who will have more enthusiasm, will, or wisdom? While he's about to turn 70, you feel his epic allergy for inertia and retirement, and how he wants to leave MetLife feet-first. If there were a mold for head coach of the Giants, it would look precisely like Tom Coughlin.

But the Giants have now missed the playoffs in four consecutive years, the longest such streak since the dark ages (1964-1980). That era spawned the Bill Parcells era. Parcells was Coughlin's mentor and, if this is indeed Coughlin's curtain call, he leaves the Giants with just one fewer win than the iconic coach who brought the first two Lombardi Trophies to New Jersey.

A perfect metaphor. And Sunday's game against the Eagles was a perfect microcosm of the season, and the end of Coughlin's monolithic career.

The Giants couldn't close. If you needed an emblem of the 2015 season, it came when the Giants were driving to go up two scores, and Eli Manning's hand was grazed as he released the ball. It was picked off and returned for a touchdown. It was a haunting reminder of blown games to the Falcons and Cowboys and Patriots. If an NFL game lasted 58 minutes, the Giants would be playing next week.

The game didn't officially end there, but for all intents and purposes it did. And Coughlin deserved better. In front of his family, who was there to support him. In front of his fans, who have been there to support him. And in front of us who have covered the Giants for the bulk of Coughlin's career running Big Blue.

And as Coughlin's mentor, and the patron saint of the Meadowlands once said, you are what your record says you are.

Tom Coughlin's record says many things. It says he's a winner. It says he can take a team from nothing and mold it into something. It says he can be obdurate enough to take a fledgeling franchise to two AFC title games, yet be malleable enough to remake his name and game, to somehow morph into a player's coach deep into the back-nine of his epic career, when most men are calcified beyond change.

If we saw the last of Coughlin on Sunday, the game didn't represent the coach, the man, or the monolith. But you can better judge him by how revered he is, and will be. If his next stop isn't the pro football draft, then it will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.