Coughlin Should Return

Regardless of what happens in the Giants' win-or-go-home game against Dallas Sunday, Tom Coughlin's job should be safe. Here are the reasons.

Of course, all Giants fans would love to see their team beat the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, win the NFC East title, and then have a long run in the playoffs.

So would team president John Mara, the man who basically holds the career of head coach Tom Coughlin in his hand.

But what if the Giants lose and finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs for a third straight year? Will Mara's patience with the 65-year-old coach wear thin enough for him to go searching for another head man? Might he eat the final year of Coughlin's contract to woo a veteran coach not named Bill Cowher, who has said time and again he's staying in television?

The answer here is no. If Mara represents anything, it is the pride the Giants have in staying the course and maintaining stability from up top until a situation becomes untenable. And regardless of how this team finishes the season, the current situation hasn't reached that point.

So Coughlin not only will likely stay, he deserves to stay. And here's why.

He has this team -- a squad beset by major injury problems from the outset of training camp -- playing for a division title in the last game of the regular season. As expected as that may sound, let's remember back to training camp when Terrell Thomas went down.

The Giants had lost one of their indispensable cornerbacks for good. Right then, in many quarters, expectations for this team dropped from double-digit wins to 8-8 at best. And who thought this team would even have a shot at the playoffs after that?

Then came the 6-2 start despite a growing injury list that included middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley, David Baas, Justin Tuck, and a cast of others who floated in and out of the lineup. Through it all, Coughlin pieced together lineups and told his team to forget about the injuries and play the game.

You see a start like that, expectations are sure to rise. The injuries of the preseason were forgotten, and playoff thoughts took over. Few realized the kind of thin bubble the Giants were sitting on. And it all came crashing down in the second half of the season, sometimes because of mental letdowns, and sometimes because the Giants just didn't have the defensive personnel to handle opponents.

So here we are. Despite all of that, huge wins at New England, Dallas, and the Jets have put Coughlin's team in position for a playoff spot with a final victory. Be honest now, did anyone at the outset believe this could happen?

This space didn't. In fact, this writer often said only half-facetiously that if this team went 8-8, Coughlin not only deserved to come back, but deserved a Coach of the Year nod.

He won't win the latter. But he should be accorded job security. His players play for him. And in a season rife with injuries to key players, that should be enough to bring him back for another year, with or without an extension.

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