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Tom Coughlin: The NY Giants’ Difference

Tom Coughlin: The NY Giants’ Difference.
By Martin Alvin

Let’s say you’re the owner of an NFL team, willing to spend all the money necessary to be a perennial Super Bowl Champion: how do you do that with the undeniable and exasperating NFL rules and regulations that guarantee parity? After all, the NFL has been working toward parity for years and they’ve finally got it –- in spades! And now, as never before in the history of the NFL, the old, Bert Bell — NFL Commissioner 1945 to 1959 — axiom is truer than ever: “On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.”

Every NFL team has great athletes, because every year they draw upon a pool of great college athletes. Even the kids who get cut in training camp are great athletes. Plus, every team has great, proven, veteran athletes; which means, every team is constructed of the finest of the finest athletes in the world.

And every team is restricted in the acquisition and maintenance of their great athletes by the NFL mandated salary cap. And every team is restricted — by both the NFL and the NFLPA — in how they’re allowed to train and practice their athletes.

And every NFL team has good coaches: all professionals who know their Xs and Os and have paid their dues in college or as assistants in the NFL; or, sometimes, in other leagues in America or Europe or Canada. At the very least, they’re all competent.

So, if every NFL team is restricted by the same issues — as well as the wild card issue of injuries — why are some teams traditionally better that others? Why are the Giants, for example –- winners of the most Super Bowls (4 out of 5) in the last thirty years — traditionally better than a lot of other teams? How did they do it, and more importantly, when did they do it?

First: how did they do it? They did it the way every great organization does it, from the top down: from great ownership down to great management, down to great coaching, down to the players, down to the trainers, down to the equipment guys; and all the way down to the office staff and cafeteria people — in short, down to every person in the facility.

Next: when did they do it? They did it twice; first with Bill Parcells — two Super Bowls — and then with Tom Coughlin -– two more Super Bowls. So, maybe, the difference between teams is the difference in their organizations in general, and their their head coaches in particular; and since Bill Parcells is no longer coaching, that brings me to Tom Coughlin. Is he the Giants’ difference? Well, without even citing his two Super Bowls, I offer the following:

In 1996: Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars — a second year expansion team constructed of rookies, second year guys and cast-offs from the rest of the league — were an 3-6 team after their first nine games. They, then, went 6-1 over the last seven games to make the playoffs: eventually, beating Buffalo, in Buffalo, and then, upsetting a great Denver team, in Denver –- just one year prior to the Broncos winning two consecutive Super Bowl Championships. Yes, they eventually lost the AFC Conference Championship game to New England, in New England, sending the Patriots to SB XXXI; but that’s not the point: the point is, the Jaguars never quit. And they didn’t quit because Tom Coughlin didn’t let them quit. And that’s because blue-collar, working-stiff, no-nonsense Tom Coughlin never-quit. Never did. Never will.

Tom Coughlin is –- and always has been –- the closest thing to Vince Lombardi, the NFL has to offer. And like Lombardi, he demands –- and gets — old school, blue-collar, working-stiff values: toughness and smarts and commitment. And it’s never by accident. He insists on his team being a stout against the run, no tippy-toeing, no jitterbugging, north/south running, mistake-free, penalty-free, clean playing, tough as nails, never-quit team. Fighting adversity is in his DNA.

In the last century, he would have been the first man on Omaha Beach and the last man off the beach at Dunkirk. Two centuries ago, he’d have still been firing his flintlock, or caplock, or percussion rifle as Santa Anna’s forces swarmed the Alamo. In WW II, he wouldn’t have surrendered at Corregidor and instead, would have organized the remnants of the regular army and the guerillas at Bataan. That’s just who he is: a tough, old-school guy who’s going to fight to the end.

Yeah, Tom Coughlin may be getting old; but his blue-collar, working-stiff, nose-to-the-grindstone, fight-to-the-end values never get old. Maybe the Giants become the first team to get to the playoffs after an 0-6 start … probably not. Maybe they become the first team to play and win a Super Bowl in their own stadium … probably not. But if they continue to play Tom Coughlin, old-school, blue-collar, working-stiff, tough-as-nails, Giants football, every remaining game, until the final whistle, one game at a time; anything is possible — because Tom Coughlin is the NY Giants’ difference.

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