Tom Coughlin may have shown more patience during Giants practices this offseason than in all of his previous coaching career combined. A wrong route? No problem, son. A missed assignment? Let's just try it again. Miscommunication? Hey, these things happen!
The reason for his laid-back demeanor and lack of hostility toward mistakes was the team's fresh offense as constructed and installed by new coordinator Ben McAdoo. Coughlin knew there would be a learning curve in the spring, and he seemingly braced himself for the onslaught of mistakes and errors that in previous years would have been football felonies. Everyone was trying to get a grip on the system, the language, the responsibilities. There was no reason to blow up over the expected gaffes.
"We've made progress," Coughlin said at the close of last month's minicamp. "We're not there, but we're making progress."
He was almost . . . content.
But that was Zen. This is now.
When the team reports to training camp Monday, Coughlin undoubtedly will return to the snarling perfectionist whose demeanor has brought the Giants two Super Bowl titles in his 10-year tenure. Those lazy, carefree days of OTAs and minicamp will be replaced by an urgency that the team has not experienced in many years. After Monday's conditioning test and meetings, the Giants will have 26 practice days and five preseason games to get their new playbook -- which wasn't fully installed in the spring -- in shape for the regular-season opener on Sept. 8 in Detroit.
Last year, general manager Jerry Reese opened training camp by counting down the days until the Super Bowl. This year, with the big game having breezed through town without any local participation, the clock is shorter and ticking even louder.
The Giants do have one advantage this preseason, and they can thank Michael Strahan for it. With their former defensive end being enshrined in two weeks, the Giants will participate in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 3. That gives them an early start to camp (although Coughlin negated half of that when he gave the players an extra weekend and had them report Monday rather than Friday) as well as an extra preseason game to iron out their new offensive scheme and defensive personnel.
"In the past, we've been very lukewarm about playing an extra preseason game," co-owner John Mara said this past week, noting that the team "ducked" last year's game when Bill Parcells was enshrined. "With a new offense, we talked about it and we said this would be a blessing to be able to have an extra game for the players to get used to it . . . It's an extra opportunity to run the offense, and we did look at it as a plus this year."
Hardly any position on the roster enters this season without a question mark or the scars of upheaval. From quarterback Eli Manning, who probably needs a bounce-back season to avoid entering the final year of his contract in 2015 without an extension, all the way down to place-kicker -- incumbent Josh Brown will battle Brandon McManus -- there will be an underlying tension to this summer. Those who remain from 2013 will attempt to bury their misery before they themselves are buried.
And overseeing it all will be Coughlin, back from his vacation spots of lenience and tolerance, racing against a clock that begins Monday.