Tom Coughlin has earned the right to fix Giants' mess
After an 0-4 start with a team that had designs on another Super Bowl run, you know it's coming.
Three of the last four years without a playoff berth, and possibly four of five if things don't turn around in a hurry?
Here we go again.
With the Giants reeling and no immediate end in sight, speculation about Tom Coughlin's future is sure to surface in the coming weeks. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of NFL coaching, the impatience that once threatened his tenure no doubt will return if the Giants can't turn things around after one of the worst starts in franchise history.
But it's simply too soon to even think about Coughlin doing anything except continuing as the Giants' coach until he's ready to step away.
The rough start is hard on everyone in the organization, especially the prideful Coughlin, who spends every waking hour tending to his team and trying to figure out how to get out of this mess.
He knows the Giants need to start winning to even think about making a playoff run. And even then, the odds are stacked against him. Only one team in NFL history -- the 1992 San Diego Chargers -- ever got into the tournament after starting 0-4. And forget about a Super Bowl run; no team that started 0-3 has gone to the Super Bowl.
But with the horrendous opening month behind him, there still is something to play for, and pointing to Coughlin as the primary culprit behind the meltdown is shortsighted and just plain wrong.
No, this is not a good coaching job from the 67-year-old Coughlin, who hasn't come up with the answers to what ails his offense, which is at the heart of what's wrong with the Giants. The defense has played well enough to keep the Giants in most of their games through nearly three quarters, but the offense's inability to sustain drives and score points has hurt the defense later in games.
The numerical carnage reads as follows: outscored 146-61, at least 30 points allowed in four straight games for the first time in 49 seasons, and the worst start in a non-strike season since 0-5 in Ray Perkins' first year as coach in 1979. In other words, historically bad.
But one month of dismal football shouldn't be enough to initiate any discussions about dislodging Coughlin as coach. He has pulled teams out of difficult situations, and we have to see whether there's more of where that came from before deciding his future. Even if the season ends in failure, it's not enough to undo his overall body of work.
Consider: His current run of eight straight non-losing seasons is tied with Hall of Famer Steve Owen for the best streak in franchise history by one coach.
Coughlin's only losing record came in his first year, when Eli Manning took over from Kurt Warner at midseason. Two Super Bowl championships in a five-year span from 2007-2011 are the most of any coach during that time. That should at least earn Coughlin the right to go out on his own terms, and that time is not now. Not before he gets the chance to fix what's wrong with his team.
And as luck would have it, the Giants' fate isn't nearly sealed just yet. If they can beat a reeling Eagles team at home on Sunday, and if the Cowboys are beaten by the streaking Broncos, the Giants will be one game out of the NFC East lead.
Yes, as bad as the Giants have been, the rest of the division hasn't been much better. Things will look a lot less gruesome if Sunday's scenario materializes.
In what might be the worst this usually rugged division has looked in decades, the Giants still have time to regroup from the wounds of the first month.
"Dallas is [playing Denver] this week, so we feel we've got to get a win and hopefully we'll get a win and we can be one game back," said Manning, whose brother Peyton can do the Giants a huge favor by beating the Cowboys on Sunday.
"We could all use [a win]," Coughlin said, "but this is a pretty resilient, tough bunch of guys and we've got to find a way to win. We win one and it will help us get started."