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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Giants build good foundation for 2014 by bringing Tom Coughlin back

Tom Coughlin looks on against the Washington Redskins

Tom Coughlin looks on against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Assessing the wreckage of the Giants' season on the day after, the problems are everywhere: an offense that team owner John Mara called "broken'' . . . an aging and injury-ravaged offensive line . . . injuries at running back . . . 23 unrestricted free agents . . . inadequate depth at linebacker . . . underperforming assistant coaches . . . oh, and did we mention injuries?

They all contributed to the Giants' 7-9 season, the fourth time in the last five years they've failed to make the playoffs.

But within a matter of minutes Monday, the Giants addressed the biggest uncertainty of all, a move that will set the tone for what they hope will be a series of decisions that reconstruct a team that had hopes of a Super Bowl run but crumbled under the weight of an 0-6 start.

Tom Coughlin will be back as coach, which is easily the most important decision of the offseason. No more uncertainty on anyone's part about the most indispensable man in the operation.

"I do want to coach,'' Coughlin said at Monday's news conference, a day after concluding only his second losing season in his 10 years as Giants coach. "I've always had the energy and the drive and the determination. I got into this thing a little bit later than most. I became a head coach in Division III when I was very young. At age 45, I got another opportunity to be a head coach in college. I'm just a young guy in this business.''

Coughlin, 67, is the NFL's oldest coach, but he has the energy of a man half his age, and the only outward sign of his years is his gray, thinning hair. Otherwise, you're looking at a man who is driven to succeed and who is not interested in slowing down. This is who he is. This is what he does.

It's the right move for the Giants, even if his team didn't realize its potential this year. He laments the 0-6 start and offers no excuses for it, but he does remind skeptics that this league can humble even the teams that seem to have everything lined up properly heading into a season. It's why you don't make knee-jerk changes after a season gone wrong.

"How long ago was 2011?'' Coughlin asked rhetorically, referencing a season that ended about 23 months ago with the Giants holding the Lombardi Trophy. "Did the Ravens make the playoffs this year? This is not an easy business. Our league is a league of parity by choice, by design, and it's a good thing. It's very competitive. Not that long ago, we were in the winner's circle. It hasn't happened for us for a couple of years. Do we have unfinished business? Yeah, we have a lot of unfinished business. We'd like to get to the winner's circle again. That's what this thing is all about.''

Coughlin still is the right man for the job, the right man for this team. Now it's a matter of re-tooling the roster, taking a hard look at his assistants -- offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and special-teams coach Tom Quinn might be on the way out -- and getting this team back to Super Bowl-contending status.

The NFL is a league in which dramatic improvements occur from one year to the next with regularity. Look no further than the Giants; after going 8-8 in 2006, they won the Super Bowl the next season. And after an epic late-season meltdown in 2010, they won another Super Bowl the following season.

"You're never too far off,'' said defensive end Justin Tuck, who hopes to re-sign with the Giants after an 11-sack season. "Everyone knows once you get into the tournament, anything can happen. We're the team that showcased that anything can happen. I don't think we're as far off as people think we are.''

It sure doesn't feel that way, especially in the immediate aftermath of a season gone wrong. But Tuck might not be that far off in his assessment.

"We have a lot of pieces of the puzzle,'' he said.

The big key is whether Eli Manning can turn back into an elite quarterback after his worst season. Rebuilding the offensive line also is a must, and either re-signing Hakeem Nicks or bringing in a replacement is critical. And as much as Manning wants to see Gilbride back, it feels as though the Giants are ready to make a change at coordinator.

Maybe they bring in Manning's former quarterbacks coach, Mike Sullivan, who was part of Greg Schiano's staff in Tampa.

It's one of several critical decisions to be made in the coming days, weeks and months.

But at least the most important decision already has been made. Now that Coughlin's status has been resolved, let the rest of the heavy lifting begin.

New York Sports