For nearly three dozen Giants legends, Sunday night will be a stirring commemoration of the greatness of their careers. Unfortunately for Tiki Barber, the inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony will provide Giants fans with more reason to color his on-field legacy with shades of disappointment over his renewed criticism of coach Tom Coughlin.
There should be nothing but cheers for what Barber did during his Giants career as the franchise's all-time leading rusher. But his strident remarks about Coughlin, including suggestions that the coach is losing his team and that he might be in danger of being fired after a 1-2 start, have cast Barber in a negative light.
Forget that it's way too soon to question Coughlin's job status. Although it's fine for Barber to express his opinion about whether the coach is losing control of his team, he needs to understand that his stature as one of the franchise's all-time great players, coupled with his problems in getting along with the coach, will cause a significant backlash when he's greeted at halftime of Sunday night's game against the Bears.
Judging from the early reaction to his comments from fans, Barber will be the only Giants great who is booed.
Barber's initial comments came in a video he made for Yahoo! Sports, and he expanded on his remarks Thursday .
"I don't know if he's completely lost control of the team, but it's definitely slipping away," Barber said on the video. "Right now, Tom Coughlin is at a crisis. His job is certainly in jeopardy."
Actually, there has been no mention of Coughlin's job status inside the Giants' offices. According to a highly placed source within the organization, a coaching change isn't even on the radar.
But that didn't stop Barber.
"[Coughlin] is in a crisis because the perception is he's losing his team," Barber said.
Barber suggested that Coughlin needs to get better leadership and create an atmosphere similar to the one in 2007, the season the Giants won the Super Bowl.
"When you have a coach who has players who can disseminate one single message, that's when a coach takes control of a locker room," he said.
Barber retired after the 2006 season and was critical of the way Coughlin treated his players then. Coughlin softened his image the following season, and many players credited his more approachable demeanor with helping the team win the Super Bowl.
"We've had plenty of discussions, some civil and some not, about how you treat people,'' Barber said of Coughlin. "His biggest evolution is how he's gotten his players to play for him. Now he needs to find that mutual sense of respect."
Barber's remarks were reminiscent of his criticism of quarterback Eli Manning's leadership early in the 2007 season. It turned out to be a blessing for Manning. There's a similar dynamic at work with Coughlin, who ought to send Barber a thank-you card.
Throw in the endorsement from former Giants coach Bill Parcells and Barber's remarks are subject to more scrutiny.
"I'm a big Tom Coughlin fan,'' Parcells said of his former receivers coach on the Super Bowl XXV championship team. "I know what kind of coach he is . . . I have every confidence in Tom."
Barber doesn't share that same confidence. Looks as though 80,000 or so people will make it clear Sunday night that they disagree with the former running back, too.