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Tom Coughlin accepts Giant share of the blame

Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York

Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants looks on after a game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Giants coach Tom Coughlin can blame any number of things for his team's 3-5 record: a string of injuries that has claimed key players including Victor Cruz, Prince Amukamara, Rashad Jennings, Jon Beason and David Wilson. Or continuing adjustments to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's West Coast system. Or a difficult schedule that doesn't ease up until the end of November.

But the Giants' 11th-year coach blames only one thing. Or, more specifically, only one person.

"Blame everything on me," Coughlin told me outside the Giants' locker room after Thursday's practice. "I'm the head coach. I deserve it. Go ahead. Pile it on me."

Coughlin has two Super Bowl championships on his resume and is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame after his career ends, but the 68-year-old coach remains hungry to turn this thing around. Yet even with all the injuries -- and with all due respect, coach, they absolutely are a factor in the poor record -- Coughlin remains resolute in his belief that the Giants can successfully address their problems and get back into the NFC East race. No matter that the task doesn't get any easier with games in Seattle on Sunday and at home against San Francisco and Dallas.

"From my position as I represent my players and as I stand for them, I'm going to continue to try to be as positively influential to them as I possibly can, no matter what the circumstances are," he said. "Because I really do believe it's about improvement. And I really do believe."

He believes because the Giants are doing as much to harm themselves as their opponents are. Case in point: Monday night's 40-24 home loss to the Colts.

"There's 21 points the other day that we gave away," Coughlin said. "In the middle of the season, we're still our own worst enemy. We are still not able to take care of ourselves. We're hurting ourselves by providing opportunities for the other [teams], which should be never taking place, 21 points of which happened last Monday night."

Coughlin was a part of the problem Monday, accepting responsibility for failing to get his challenge flag out before Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hustled his team to the line of scrimmage and threw a first-half touchdown pass to tight end Coby Fleener. But Coughlin is willing to shoulder even more of the blame for what's gone wrong. He wants all of it.

"I'm responsible for everything," he said. "And that's OK. I've been there before. It's not going to affect me. I'm going to work the same way. I'm going to be the same coach. I'm going to be the same guy. It should all go right to me. Leave the players alone. We've got to coach the players better, and we've got to play better."

Coughlin said he isn't worried about his own situation moving forward; if he doesn't make the playoffs for a third straight season, there's no telling whether the Giants will bring him back in 2015.

"I'm not worried about me," he said. "We've got eight games to go. There will be plenty of time for that when the time is right. But right now, I've got to get this team to play."

While the coach is pointing to himself as the reason for the Giants' first-half failures, many of his key veterans refuse to let Coughlin take the blame.

"It's not on him," quarterback Eli Manning said. "The coach has to , but as players, we've got to play better and we know it. And he knows it. We have got to perform better and make plays and be smarter. So it's our responsibility. He gets us ready. He gets us mentally ready and prepared, and we go into these games prepared, but we're just not performing."

Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka echoed Manning's sentiments.

"We're not going to let him take the blame," he said. "He coaches us up during the week, but we're out there on the field performing and executing. I know he's a stand-up guy and he wants to take blame for it, but we're all grown men in here. We all contributed to the wins, and we all contributed to the losses. I'll take my fair share of it, too."

Coughlin said he has spent a good deal of time this week addressing his team's fragile psyche in hopes of getting the team mentally prepared for playing against the defending Super Bowl champions.

"We've had that opportunity in a couple of sessions and, you know, it's an emotional thing," he said. "A lot of people don't understand how emotionally draining it is, especially when you lose. To get over that and get moving, but I think we're getting there."

And he believes the Giants can straighten things out, so he'll keep a stiff upper lip.

Literally.

"Lookit, you're not going to see me with my lip on the floor, because there's a bunch of guys in that I'm responsible for that have to understand that I believe in them and that I think we can be much better than we are," he said.

Despite the problems, the coach still believes in his team. But he acknowledges he needs others to feel the same way.

"I do think we can come out of this. I really do," he said. "But it's going to take a lot more than me. The whole group has got to believe."

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