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Don't overreact and write off Coughlin

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been through his

Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been through his share of ups and downs. Bob Glauber doesn't expect Sunday's loss to derail him. (Dec. 19, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Long after the Giants had suffered one of the biggest collapses in franchise history, Tom Coughlin sat in a darkened room inside his home, alone with his thoughts as he attempted to deal with the fallout.

"I sat in a room with the lights out for about 2½ hours," Coughlin said Monday in the wake of Sunday's humiliating 38-31 loss to the Eagles, in which the Giants surrendered 28 unanswered points in the final 7:28.

When he told reporters about this somewhat haunting behavior, which he apparently has engaged in after other difficult losses, there was a good deal of laughter. It was almost as if everyone thought Coughlin was joking.

He wasn't.

"It's not funny," he said. "It's not the way it's supposed to be. What was I going to do, join in on [the] festivities?"

Someone asked Coughlin if he talks to anyone in particular to bounce ideas off after a loss. Evidently, he doesn't.

"My wife [Judy] ignores me, and I don't have a dog," he cracked.

It's no wonder Coughlin cloistered himself to ponder the horrors of what happened at New Meadowlands Stadium, where a series of defensive breakdowns and special-teams blunders brought down the Giants. They saw a 31-10 lead evaporate and their chance to overtake the Eagles for first place in the NFC East disappear.

"When he told me that this morning," Giants public relations director Pat Hanlon said of Coughlin's alone time, "I asked him if Judy looked in on him from time to time to make sure he wasn't dangling from the chandelier."

Strange times indeed for the embattled coach, whose job security once again is at issue in the wake of a mind-numbing meltdown. Although it's still unlikely that the Giants will fire Coughlin, who has one year remaining on his contract after this season, the continued speculation that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher would be interested in the Giants' job if it opens up hasn't made things any easier on Coughlin.

Sunday's shocker only complicated matters. Instead of finishing off what looked to be a resounding win over the Eagles, an epic fold ensued. It rivaled The Fumble of 1978, when Joe Pisarcik's botched handoff to Larry Csonka was returned for the winning touchdown by Herman Edwards, and the January 2003 playoff loss to the 49ers in which the Giants blew a 38-14 lead and lost, 39-38.

Both coaches who presided over those calamities - John McVay with The Fumble and Jim Fassel with the loss to the 49ers - ultimately paid the price by being fired. And now that Coughlin has added his name to that ignominious list, it remains to be seen how much longer the 64-year-old lasts with the Giants.

My sense of how it will play out: If Coughlin wins one of the next two games and gets into the playoffs, the Giants don't make a change. If they lose both and don't qualify for the postseason, all bets are off.

Lose to the Packers, beat the Redskins and still don't get in? Well, let's see how it plays out.

How does it end? Put it this way: I'm not betting against Coughlin, who has survived more than his share of difficult losses with the Giants, only to rally his team in the end. We have seen him take the Giants to the brink before, only to pull them back with dramatic late-season wins. Such as the one in 2006, when he needed to beat the Redskins in Week 17 to reach the playoffs.

And how many flashpoints were there in the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl season - the blowout losses the first two games, Eli Manning's four-interception loss to the Vikings, that home loss to the Redskins when Kevin Gilbride had Manning throw 53 times in tornado-like winds?

That 22-10 home loss to the Redskins dropped the Giants to 9-5 . . . same record as now. The Giants went on to beat the Bills the next week to qualify for the playoffs as a wild card, then won three road playoff games before beating the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

The lesson here: Even after what happened against the Eagles, it's still too soon to write off this team and this coach.

New York Sports