Tom Coughlin will do anything to reach his players, and this time he went with the phenom pitcher whose career bottomed out in 2001.
It was so bad for Roy Halladay that the Toronto Blue Jays didn't just send the former first-round pick to the minors a year after his ERA ballooned to 10.64. They sent him to the lowest minor-league team in their system, Class A Dunedin, Fla. His confidence was so shattered at the time that the Blue Jays asked a counselor from their employee assistance program to help break the news to him.
"Here's a guy who had to go to 'A' ball to resurrect his career, and he did it with humility and he did it with the end in mind," Coughlin said of Halladay, who now pitches for the Phillies.
P.S.: Halladay worked his way back to the majors, went 19-7 in 2002 and won the Cy Young Award the following year with a 22-7 record. On May 29, Halladay became the 20th pitcher in major-league history to throw a perfect game, leading the Phillies to a 1-0 win over the Marlins.
"His is a great example about work ethic, fear of failure, the way he was between starts, and the reason that he's so successful now because he was at an absolute low point," Coughlin said. "I thought it was a good way of showing our players that with effort and resolve, success can be achieved."
The message for Coughlin's Giants: After last year's 8-8 disappointment, the only way to get back to being Super Bowl champions is with a similar resolve.
"It's a whole different theme, a whole different approach," said Coughlin, who won his only Super Bowl title as a head coach after the 2007 season. "What we're talking about now is more like it was a few years back than it has been the last couple of years. After you win the world championship, your theme is different. It's about getting back to the work ethic and not allowing all that goes on around you to satisfy. Now it's a different type of ballgame."
Coughlin also has talked to his players about the lessons of two iconic sports figures who died this year: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and former UCLA coach John Wooden, a personal favorite of Coughlin's.
Coughlin paid particular attention to Steinbrenner's legendary intensity when it came to winning.
"We talked about the demand that this type of individual made on his players, and there's nothing wrong with that," Coughlin said. "You sort of make that agreement when you work for someone, and ownership should expect that excellence from everybody."
"I think every year, it's a different message based on the circumstances," right guard Chris Snee said. "You look at a guy like Halladay and you see the price that he paid. He had a down time in his career where things were looking bleak and a lot of people wrote him off. But he pays the price. He's the first guy in that locker room and the last guy to leave."
Sound a bit like the Giants' situation, especially the part about people writing them off? You won't find too many people picking the former Super Bowl champions to get back to the title game, or even win the NFC East over the consensus favorite Cowboys.
Time for the kind of hunger that typified the Giants' unexpected run to the Super Bowl XLII title. After finishing second to the Cowboys in the division, the Giants won three road playoff games before upsetting the previously unbeaten Patriots for the championship.
"On the one hand, the message is always consistent about effort, performance and turnovers, things like that," Coughlin said. "But it's a higher energy and they're more into it this year because of all the bad feelings in the offseason and how disappointed we were. That's what we're shooting for, to get rid of all those bad feelings we had and to get back to where we want to be."
Long way to go to get there. Plenty of doubters. Just the way the coach wants it.