PHOENIX - It's a rite of spring. The birds chirp, the grass grows, the flowers bloom, and Tom Coughlin is asked how much longer he plans on coaching.
He'll be 69 when the 2015 season begins, and he's the oldest head coach in the league. But so far, Coughlin's answer has not swayed from year to year.
"Will I know? People say 'You'll know,'" he said Wednesday at the NFL's annual meetings. "I know the other way right now."
Assuming it is he and not John Mara who has control over when his coaching career ends, Coughlin seemed to indicate that it will have little to do with what is happening on the field. That is to say, he has no plans to walk away if he were to win another Super Bowl. Nor did he indicate that he would throw in the towel if the losing got to be too much (although in that case it could become a Mara decision).
That's not to say the losing isn't getting to him. The Giants have had back-to-back sub-.500 seasons.
"How does it sit with me? It doesn't sit well," said Coughlin, who signed a one-year extension earlier this month. "It's very frustrating, very disappointing. Very difficult to live with quite frankly. The losses stay with you forever. That's where I am."
So what keeps him coming back?
"It's more the competitive aspect of not finalizing things," he said. "It's the nature of the disappointment and the competitiveness and wanting to do something about it, realizing the only place you can is on the field. You can't talk about it. You have to win on the field."
That doesn't mean there aren't headaches.
"Seeing things that quite frankly over the years we've been very good at not be very good now, it drives me nuts," he said. "Like why isn't our two-minute offense better than it is? We've been top of the league for years in that area."
And, he said, he is still bothered by not winning it all in 2008 with what was probably his best team.
"Am I upset about '08?" he asked. "Yeah. Yeah. I should be."
Coughlin's legacy with the Giants, were it to end now, would be difficult to parse. He's won two Super Bowls in 11 years, which likely will put him in the Hall of Fame one day. But he hasn't won a playoff game in any of the other nine. "We won a bunch of playoff games in those two years," he said. "All of them."
And he's missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.
In 2015, Coughlin will have a chance to add to that complex resume in one way or another. And if it is up to him, which way that is won't have any influence on a decision for 2016. Or 2017. Or beyond.
"I'm excited about what I do," he said.
So he'll keep doing it.