Eli Manning said he had a gut feeling about the future of the only head coach he has known in the NFL when he met with reporters Monday morning.
He didn’t voice that intuition, but he didn’t have to. It was written on his emotional face, reflected in his tearing-up eyes. And a few hours later, he was proved correct.
While Tom Coughlin’s imminent departure was sending ripples through the locker room — the players spoke before an official announcement was made and many left the building unsure of what would happen — it crashed like a wave on Coughlin’s longest-tenured player.
The player who came to the Giants with Coughlin in 2004, won two Super Bowls with him, started more consecutive games than any other head coach-starting quarterback combination in NFL history with him, and now survives him as the lone on-field face of the franchise, clearly was broken up by the breakup.
“He definitely has not failed these players,” Manning said. “We failed him.”
Others in the locker room expressed similar statements.
“He’s a great coach,” Jason Pierre-Paul said. “He’s determined, motivator, father figure, and consistent at everything he does since the day that I got here. Those guys told me about him and I learned and actually got to experience coach Coughlin for who he is.”
“Tom Coughlin is a great coach, a Hall of Fame coach,” Cullen Jenkins said. “It’s an honor to have been able to play for him and play for this organization . . . I wish we could have done more for him. I wish we could have won more games and continued some of the success and traditions that they’ve built around here.”
Many of Coughlin’s former players weighed in, some blaming the team’s personnel for the recent failures.
“There were so many things about the Giants that weren’t coach Coughlin’s fault,” NFL Network analyst Shaun O’Hara said. “I challenge anybody to win as many games as he has in the last couple of years given the injuries that this team has fallen on and given the roster.”
Bill Parcells, who hired Coughlin as receivers coach for the Giants team that won Super Bowl XXV, appeared on ESPN to discuss the change.
“We all know when we get in the business that we need to get off of the train sometime, and sometimes we get off on our own volition, and other times they ask us to get off,” Parcells said. “It’s a sad day because he’s done such a magnificent job there with the Giants . . . We’ve been friends a long time. I’m sad, but I’m happy. It’s a new adventure, and there’s another life out there as well.”
Even those who are relatively new to the Giants felt the loss.
“I love TC as a coach and a person,” wide receiver Dwayne Harris said. “I only had one year with him, and he’s a good guy.”
Manning had 12 years with him. They saw the heights and commiserated over the lows.
“I appreciate the way he works, I think he appreciates the way I handle my business,” Manning said of Coughlin. “We’ve had a good run. Could’ve been better, obviously, but I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”