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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Giants and Tom Coughlin, Jets and Todd Bowles try to put offseason challenges in rearview mirror

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and Jets head

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and Jets head coach Todd Bowles are both looking to put their problems from the offseason behind them as the NFL season gets underway. Credit: AP / Julio Cortez; Andrew Theodorakis

There is little reason to think that either of our local pro teams is about to begin a journey that eventually will make its way to San Francisco, the site of the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. Too many roster uncertainties and deficiencies for the Giants or Jets to have a realistic shot at Super Bowl 50, even if no one in either locker room believes there is no shot.

The backdrop for the two teams remains intriguing, nonetheless, and what we're about to witness are franchise-defining developments. Even if the two teams are entering the season from starkly different directions.

For the Giants, it's a matter of whether Tom Coughlin can successfully manage one of the biggest roster transformations in his 12 seasons as coach.

For the Jets, it's Todd Bowles embarking on his first head-coaching journey after a long and distinguished apprenticeship.

It will be a fascinating process, one that could determine whether Coughlin, the NFL's oldest coach at age 69, will earn the chance to keep going or give way to a younger man if the results aren't to team president and co-owner John Mara's liking.

It also will give us a good sense of whether Bowles is strong enough to coach in the league's toughest and most demanding market or whether he will be the latest in a decades-long line of coaches who couldn't deliver a championship.

Both coaches already are facing daunting circumstances.

Coughlin's best player on defense faces an uncertain future because of his ill-fated decision to get involved with fireworks, a major blow to a defense that already was short on difference-makers. Jason Pierre-Paul lost the index finger on his right hand and missed all of training camp; it's anyone's guess when he might be able to play again.

The Giants are long past their anger and disappointment produced by Pierre-Paul's reckless behavior, but the uncertainty of his situation will linger deep into the season and perhaps beyond. It doesn't help that there are so many questions on that defense.

Is there a pass rusher who can step up in Pierre-Paul's absence? What about the inexperience at safety, where the Giants parted ways with veteran leader Antrel Rolle and rolled the dice by trading up for second-round rookie Landon Collins? Can cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has Pro Bowl talent, stay healthy? Can linebacker Jon Beason do the same? That's an awful lot of uncertainty.

The offense figures to be the more settled half of the roster, with Eli Manning continuing a remarkable streak of consecutive games that dates to midway through his rookie season. He is the one and only constant for Coughlin, and Manning's improvement in Year 1 of his work with the West Coast offense should only get better. Especially with Odell Beckham Jr. ready to go from the start.

Questions along the offensive line? Absolutely, especially on the right side. But the line should be at least serviceable enough to give Manning a chance.

The issue now is whether Coughlin can bring it all together. How it shakes out will determine if he earns the right to coach beyond this season.

Job security isn't an issue for Bowles, who will be given plenty of time to prove himself by owner Woody Johnson and new general manager Mike Maccagnan. But the Jets can at least take some comfort with how Bowles has handled himself with his own set of challenging circumstances. He has shown a steady hand in guiding the Jets through some tumultuous off-field situations: Sheldon Richardson's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Richardson's subsequent arrest for drag racing (he could face an additional suspension) and the most infamous locker-room punch in NFL history.

Ikemefuna Enemkpali broke Geno Smith's jaw on Aug. 11 after an argument over a $600 plane ticket escalated, and Bowles lost his presumptive starting quarterback for at least the beginning of the season.

But Bowles showed leadership in dealing with the behavior of Richardson and Smith, and the rest of his players saw a coach who stood resolute in not allowing the distractions to sow additional locker-room discord. Bowles doesn't demand the media spotlight the way predecessor Rex Ryan did, but he does demand the respect of his players, and they gave it to him in part because of his strong leadership.

Bowles now goes with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback, with no promises made to Smith about when he might return. That said, it's difficult to see Smith not getting another chance at some point.

Maccagnan restocked the roster to give Bowles more to work with, especially on defense with the additions of Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist, as well as the trade for wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

That's enough to at least give the Jets a fighting chance. Maybe not a Super Bowl chance, but at least a chance to start building a winner.

And so it begins for two teams with intriguing possibilities -- and potential pitfalls -- in the months ahead.

Here we go.

New York Sports