Coughlin and Reid took turns on the hot seat

Giants coach Tom Coughlin, like the Eagles' Andy Reid, has been harshly criticized this season.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, like the Eagles' Andy Reid, has been harshly criticized this season. (DARRON CUMMINGS / AP)
Posted: January 19, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - On Nov. 16 the Eagles were 3-6, the New York Giants 6-3.

Andy Reid's job was (seemingly) on a line as thin as floss while Tom Coughlin was on ground as solid as the acres of concrete that make up the Meadowlands complex.

Reid's Eagles were to travel up the New Jersey Turnpike in four days to face the Giants, and Coughlin was on a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters. The topic, briefly, was Reid's future as head coach.

"I don't enjoy this part of it," Coughlin said of coaching in the NFL. "Andy's a good football coach. He has a record to stand on to prove that."

Coughlin, no stranger to tough times, was asked a few more questions about how he weathered the rough patches during his stints in Jacksonville and New York. But when he was questioned again about Reid, he snapped and diverted the conversation back to the coming game.

Coughlin knows it's not good etiquette to talk about other coaches' job security, and sure enough, in a month's time, it was his turn to be on the hot seat. The Giants had lost five of six - beginning with losses to the 49ers and Eagles - and were in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.

Looking back now, as the Giants prepare for Sunday's NFC championship game at San Francisco, it seems silly to think that Coughlin could have been fired after eight seasons in New York, one of which produced a Super Bowl title only four years ago. But many New York fans were publicly calling for Coughlin's ouster, although Giants ownership - like the Eagles' - is not known for yielding to public opinion.

But the Giants won their final two games to win a weak NFC East, pummeled the Falcons in the first round, upset the Packers in the next, and suddenly Coughlin was back to being coach for life.

"It's pretty much like the stock market, based upon perceived fears people have," Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie said Wednesday. "They try to guess what's going to transpire and happen, and really it's just the chaos of the day, so to speak. You really can't pay attention to it."

Surely, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is looking to New York as justification for his retaining Reid despite the Eagles' disappointing 8-8 season, one he called "unacceptable" before he, well, accepted it and announced his coach's return.

The Giants, after all, rebounded from an 8-8 season to win the Super Bowl in 2007 and now they're making a run similar to the one the Eagles embarked on in 2008. They will surpass that Eagles squad, of course, if they can win on the road against an NFC West team.

What is uncertain is whether Lurie views the Giants' postseason run as proof that the Eagles, who beat New York with Vince Young, could have had equal success had they held just one of the five fourth-quarter leads they blew and squeaked into the postseason.

One high-ranking Eagles official said he did not, messaging: "Not a big 'what if' guy. We need to get better."

Perhaps Lurie takes the opposite point of view and sees the Giants' streak as another reason for next season to be a win-or-be-fired proposition for Reid. Many dismissed Lurie's 12-minute epilogue two weeks ago in which he lambasted Reid because he ultimately stayed with the status quo.

But you might have thought Reid produced a V.I. Warshawski-type season by the language Lurie used to describe what had ensued. Lurie said he was delivering no ultimatums, but with only two years remaining on his contract, Reid certainly can do no worse than an NFC championship appearance.

Right?

Coughlin, despite all his accomplishments, would have been fired for not much less.

"I don't think anyone is better than the league or any particular team. That's coaches included," Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "Obviously, it's a results-oriented business."

Aside from their red faces and prickly-with-the-press demeanors, Reid and Coughlin have very little in common. The most glaring difference is their handling of players. Reid would rather get hit by a Greyhound bus than throw one of his players under one - unless it's David Akers.

Coughlin points fingers when he feels they need to be pointed, and he isn't afraid to direct them at his stars. High-profile former Giants Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan and current defensive back Antrel Rolle have openly griped about Coughlin's propensity to call out players.

Lurie praised Reid for deflecting criticism of his players onto himself. He said it was one of the primary reasons for keeping the coach. You might have thought, judging by Lurie's sentiments, that Coughlin's act would have run its course with today's athlete.

But it has not.

And now he's two wins away from a second ring.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com, or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

 

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