Make it two Super Bowls in four years for New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Often maligned by fans and the media, including earlier in the NFL season when the Giants were playing inconsistently and threatening to miss the playoffs, Coughlin is now king of New York. The words ‘Hall of Fame’ have even been thrown around now with Coughlin, though I think that his resume is still incomplete for a call from Canton despite the two Lombardi Trophies. Time will tell, but for now, congratulations to the humble and old-school head coach of this year’s Super Bowl champions. Coughlin joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to talk about the significant of winning a second Super Bowl as head coach of the Giants, when he started to realize that his team was on a roll and would be tough to beat, how Kevin Gilbride and Eli Manning were trying to take a shot down the field late in the fourth quarter and on the final drive in particular, the thought process behind scoring the touchdown compared to milking the clock for a final-second field goal, being in elite company by winning a second Super Bowl in four years, why he hasn’t even considered stepping down as head coach of the Giants and Eli Manning’s progression as a person, leader and quarterback.
On the significance of winning a second Super Bowl as head coach of the Giants:
“Well it means an awful lot to us, but I’m really, really proud of these young men. They battled back, the way that they came together, the phrase that they used was ‘All In’ and they were all in. And you could tell by the way they practiced, by the way they met, the way they listened and the way they responded. And once the defense started to play the way we knew they were capable of playing, the confidence of the team rose.”
On when he thought that his team was on a roll and would be tough to beat:
“The Dallas game in Dallas was a huge win for us. It didn’t catapult us further than the next week when we lost a disappointing game at home to Washington. I walked into the meeting the very next day and I said ‘fellas, we have two games to play; if we win them both, we’re going to win the division and we’re on into the playoffs. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl championship, but the way there is by winning the division.’ I walked out of the room. The Jets game was a huge turning point for us in terms of the quality of play in all three phases. The 99-yarder by Victor Cruz just changed the whole concept of what we were doing and the game.
And then from there, just realizing the way we had prepared for Dallas; and then Dallas comes in and is an opponent we always have really tough and hard difficult games with. And we knew this one wasn’t going to be any different. But our defense played very, very well and hard again, and so we were able to move on from there. And then the game against Atlanta at home was a huge win for us. When you really realize that a very potent offense with many talented people came in and weren’t able to really do the things that they wanted to do. So that gave us an indication that if we continued to play defense like that, and we started to play Giants football again — in ’07 we had one giveaway in the four postseason games to win the world championship; and in ’11-’12, one giveaway to win the world championship.”
Whether the team was trying to take a shot down the field deep in the final drive and other stages late in the fourth quarter:
“Well we were looking to hit anybody. We had talked about how we would maybe be able to move the safeties a little bit off the mark and perhaps come back the other way. And what happened there was, first of all, I say we’re going to have a hard time getting the ball back, we had two incomplete passes that stopped the clock, we had a run that was for -1, and they had to punt us the ball. Yeah, it was the 12 yard line, but what happened was we had cover-two beater, or a two-man beater to one side. Okay? The other side we had a W-Go; Kevin Gilbride called it a go route. So when Eli came back, he knew he could move the safety a little bit and he did. He moved his eyes to the right side of the field, and in doing so it pulled the safety off. Well in the meantime in cover-two, they’re trying to play the jam and Mario gets off. And Mario is very fast, very fast. So down the field he goes. Eli comes back with the ball and it is a perfect, perfect throw. And a perfect catch. And he goes down to the ball and secures the ball. Now that’s a huge rush to our team.”
On there being no guarantee that they would have executed the field goal had Ahmad Bradshaw not tumbled into the end zone late in the game:
“There’s two theories there, two frames of thought. The one is you want to score the touchdown, you definitely want the touchdown, it puts you up four and they can’t beat you with the field goal. And the other is how can we milk this clock down any further than it is. We didn’t use our timeouts well. And the chances are if Ahmad backed down or sat down at the one-yard line, we had one more play, they couldn’t stop the clock and we could have put the ball on the ground and if we score great, if we don’t fine, we still have one timeout and could have taken it. But there is no guarantee when the game is on the line that it’s going to be perfect execution. Now, I have great faith in our field goal kicker and our long snapper and holder, they’ve performed very well.”
On being in elite company by winning a second Super Bowl in four years:
“Well I try to never put it in perspective for me. It’s not about me. It’s about our team and our franchise. We’re the first 9-7 team to win the Super Bowl, and now we’re one of five franchises to win four or more. These are the things that are important. The other thing is to the players, to me, it’s the stuff of legends. And I tell them, 30 years from now you’re going to be sitting in front of your fireplace talking to your grandchildren about this game and about this Super Bowl. Because first of all, the kind of season that we had. When it’s the middle of the season and everyone’s down on you and you’ve lost four games, I’m looking at like, what are we really going to criticize about losing to the world champions in 57 seconds and having scored as many points as we did. Then in San Francisco we drove it the length of the field and on fourth down we didn’t get the score — I understand all that stuff. The heart and the soul were still in it, it just didn’t happen for us. Now, we’re disappointed as heck, there’s no question about it.
And it’s all pointed out to us and there’s no way around that part of it. But the other thing is by the same token, it’s not a reason to chastise your team into a negative frame of mind about it. You’ve got to keep playing, you’ve got to keep playing as hard as you possibly can. The other thing about it is we’re 7-7 and we win the last two and win the division and then the Atlanta game — it feels like it really feels good right now and everybody…we know we’re going to Green Bay and so on and so forth. But again, we had a close game with them in the regular season, there is respect on both sides of the ball, there was not going to be anywhere near the game like the score when we went up there a year ago. So we felt good about that. We knew it would be a most difficult game against a….can you imagine a quarterback having a 122 rating during the regular season? So we go up there and we really do play very well. And then the San Francisco game, a special team, we knew somehow, someway we’ve got to bust out of this. This is two outstanding defenses playing on a miserable day where the wind and rain and all this stuff going on, it’s like what’s going to happen, what’s going to break? And boom. Special teams.”
On not giving any thought to stepping down as head coach after winning the SB again:
“No, but when you’re going through something like we did the last six weeks, the energy level is so high you don’t need any sleep, you don’t need anything. It’s a constant high. It’s so gratifying to see because the players go out on the field and do the things you preach and talk about, and execute them very, very well. So really with the team that we have, the reinforcement we’ve received, and the way that our coaches have performed throughout the course of the year, I’m excited.”
On Eli Manning’s progression as a person and a quarterback:
“Leadership. His leadership skills. He has really sharpened them. I’ve said this before, he has really taken ownership of this team. He really has. He’s put us on his back many times, look at the number of fourth quarter wins. But it’s the way he goes about it — he’s humble, he’s confident, he’s not arrogant at all, his teammates believe in him. You watched when he’s introduced, his teammates stand up for him, they stand up. It’s just a great, great thing to see.”