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Tom Coughlin’s hot seat with Giants gets warm; players stay loyal

Coach Tom Coughlin has his entire focus on

Coach Tom Coughlin has his entire focus on Jets and the remaining games on the Giants' schedule and refuses to be concerned about a possible coaching change. Credit: xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>

The Giants lose a critical late-season game to a divisional opponent, their playoff hopes are suddenly imperiled, and the coach’s status is clouded with uncertainty.

Sound familiar, Giants fans?

Welcome to yet another installment of Tom Coughlin-on-the-hot-seat drama.

There’s still time for Coughlin to salvage the season by winning the NFC East and reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 Super Bowl season. But after Sunday’s desultory 20-14 loss to NFC East rival Washington at FedEx Field, the Giants are 5-6 and teetering once more heading into Sunday’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

There are no outward indications of concern on Coughlin’s part; in fact, the coach has never flinched during any of the previous times his job was on the line. On Wednesday, he was all about the Jets and nothing else — especially nothing about his own uncertain situation.

“We’re in December now, and there’s not many games left to play,” he said. “There’s no reason not to commit yourself totally and completely to something you’ve spent your life wishing and hoping for. That’s the attitude I take.”

But lurking beneath the surface are more questions about whether this might be the time when the Giants change direction if Coughlin can’t reach the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Team president and co-owner John Mara has given no indication of any impending change, nor is he expected to until he knows just how his team will finish the season.

But if the losing continues, especially in a division that was there for the taking had the Giants beaten Washington, then Mara and the Giants’ front-office brain trust certainly will consider whether it’s time to move on.

It is not an easy decision, and the obvious preference for the organization is that Coughlin himself answers the question with a stretch run that finishes with a playoff berth. But the challenge is a daunting one; of the Giants’ five remaining opponents, three are against teams with winning records.

Further complicating any potential change: What’s the alternative if the Giants do part ways with Coughlin? The fact is there is no coach out there with a better resume than the one currently in charge, nor is there a set of coordinators as savvy as Steve Spagnuolo and Ben McAdoo, both of whom have done mostly fine work with a less-than-perfect roster and a ton of injuries on both sides of the ball.

But sometimes change for its own sake is the preferred path, and Mara may feel the need to shake things up if the losing continues. It would be an especially painful gut punch to lose to the Jets, who have historically played second fiddle to Mara’s teams through the decades.

Coughlin already has come back from an 0-2 start in which questions surfaced once more about his status. And now the uncertainty begins anew. The one thing the coach has going for him — and this is big: His players — especially the key ones — offer unconditional support.

And it’s not just lip service.

“My loyalty to him is 100 percent,” Eli Manning told Newsday. “I think he’s been a great coach for this team and for me, and I have 100 percent respect for him.”

Manning things Coughlin has been adept at dealing with myriad complications thrown his way this season.

“We’ve had guys go down and other things have happened, but we’ve stayed competitive in every game,” he said. “We should have won more games, but not because of his coaching, because we have to make some plays. The plays have been there, but for whatever reason, they’ve fallen short. But that’s on us, not the coach.”

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is also fiercely loyal to Coughlin.

“As far as I’m concerned, coach Coughlin will never be on the hot seat,” Pierre-Paul told Newsday. “He’s a great coach. What he’s accomplished here, I have the utmost respect for. If there’s any coach I’ll play for, it’s him. Not just because I play for him, but he knows how to win.

“It’s about the players,” Pierre-Paul said. “The players have to give the effort and last week, the effort that we gave wasn’t really good. We’re a better team than that, and we just got to come out there Sunday [against the Jets] and show it.”

Pierre-Paul bristles at the speculation about Coughlin’s future.

“He’s not on the hot seat in my book,” he said. “I could care less what people think. He’s one of the great coaches, and I’m glad I’m playing for him. I’d love to see him continue to coach. Of course I would.”

These next five games could determine whether Coughlin gets that chance.

New York Sports