Old school’s still in vogue
But not before Coughlin made one of the season’s most fateful decisions: With little to gain, he had his team go all out in the final week against the history-chasing Patriots. A younger coach — a Jon Gruden, say, or a Tony Dungy — might have rested his regulars, particularly with the playoffs starting in just eight days. But Coughlin, being a tough old coot, went for the “W,” and the Giants nearly pulled it off, building a 12-point lead before the Pats rallied for a 38-35 victory.
“Playing hard like that, coming off a game of that nature, was a good way for us to go into the playoffs,” he said.
So it wasn’t just Coughlin’s willingness to communicate more with his players — to form a “leadership council” and allow it input on rules, practice schedules, etc. — that got the Giants to Arizona. It was also Coughlin being Coughlin.
Some players rebel against the fierceness of his regimen, he said, “but that’s the way the game is. You have to spend a certain amount of time on the practice field, working on things until you get them right. My principles — how we go about winning — haven’t changed and aren’t going to change.”
No, in many respects, Coughlin is still the same coach he was in 1969, when he was getting the football program going at Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology. He was only 23 then, just two years removed from his glory days as a Syracuse wingback, but there was nothing he wouldn’t do to win.
Of course, that’s because the coach at RIT back then did everything — oversee the offense, the defense, the ankle taping. Even the field maintenance.
“I’d pound the stakes in, run the string from one stake to the other, line the field,” he said. “I remember Bob Ford of the University of Albany [then Albany State] showing up one day with three or four buses full of players. And I’ve got 32 or 33 on my roster — and I’m out lining the field before the game.”
Fortunately for him, somebody else will handle that chore before Sunday’s Super Bowl. You get the feeling, though, that if the job needed doing, Tom Coughlin would roll up his sleeves — and see that it was done right.