Analyst David Diehl for Fox Sports.

Analyst David Diehl for Fox Sports. Credit: Fox Sports

David Diehl was on the line, calling in for a previously scheduled interview. But wait: Why 13 minutes early?

"I'm still on Coughlin Time," he explained Thursday.

So some things never change for players in the Tom Coughlin era, even one such as Diehl, who now works not for the Giants but for Fox as a rookie game analyst.

When he took the job, though, little did the retired offensive lineman know that his world and Coughlin's would intersect as directly as they have late this autumn.

Diehl figured to be too far down Fox's depth chart to be assigned to a Giants game, usually a big-audience attraction that draws the biggest-name announcing teams. But with their fortunes fading and with less-than-marquee opponents such as the Jaguars, Titans and Rams on the slate, Diehl ended up with three Giants games in four weeks, including Sunday in Nashville.

That meant attending a production meeting with Coughlin in Jacksonville last weekend. Did that feel a little weird?

"Absolutely," Diehl said. "But the good thing is I think I asked him honest questions. I think at this point coaches know that I study, I do my work. I'm not coming in with a biased opinion. I'm coming in as an analyst.

"I had to ask coach Coughlin questions about what he thinks about what's going on. Yeah, I had to ask that stuff, and I would do that to any coach."

Calling the Giants-Jaguars game was "surreal," he said, "but I call it fair and I think people can realize and respect that because I don't play favorites."

Diehl, who played from 2003-13, said his knowledge of the Giants' personnel is of some help when he works their games -- but only to a point, given the new offensive scheme and a roster turned upside down by injuries.

As for Coughlin, Diehl said, "As much as people want to blame coach Coughlin, I still think he can do his job. You're going to ask coach Coughlin to step down? Who are you going to replace him with, a man with those types of credentials and knows what it takes to win in the NFL, and he's proven it?

"He's got more energy now than he ever has. He comes to work every day and he is the same exact person from the minute training camp starts to the end of the season."

Diehl's second career was a long time in the making. He recalled a long-ago cold tub chat with future media star Michael Strahan circa 2006.

Strahan advised Diehl to focus on football first, but once established, to spend offseasons thinking ahead, which he did. It's something too many players fail to do until the time is at hand.

"When that door is shut, I mean, you feel it," Diehl said. "It's different not being a player. You feel it instantly. Your number is gone, your locker's gone and they move on, because they have to."

Diehl said he is the same stickler for preparation that he was as a player, which included a two-day crash course in July with John Madden.

Kenny Dichter, CEO of the private aviation company Wheels Up and a friend of Diehl's, got him Madden's number last spring, and the two struck up a relationship that resulted in Diehl visiting Madden at his California home. After testing Diehl with X's-and-O's questions to confirm he had done his homework, Madden got down to business.

"Watching film with him on this big screen, it was absolutely unbelievable," Diehl said. "I learned more in the first 10 minutes with him than I've learned in the last five years of preparing for this."

The education continues, and Diehl acknowledged he still has plenty to learn. But he judged the journey to be "awesome."

"The ability to go every single Sunday inside an NFL stadium is something that you can't duplicate," he said. "You just can't get that feeling any other way besides as a player."

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