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Tom Coughlin describes 'emotional tug-of-war' between family and team after brother's death

Tom Coughlin speaks to the media during training

Tom Coughlin speaks to the media during training camp. (July 27, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Tom Coughlin described the loss of his brother John earlier this week and his responsibilities with the Giants as “an emotional tug-of-war.”

Coughlin has not spoken much about it, either in public or with his team. He noted it in a meeting on Wednesday to the players and then moved on to the Panthers. But it has been difficult for him to balance between being an NFL head coach and the patriarch of a family.

“You drift back and forth between your family and your brother and even my wife (Judy) was very close to John and is close to all my sisters,” Coughlin told “So you’re not there for anybody, to be honest with you. But that’s understood, they all understand that.”

Coughlin has spent his life in coaching, missing too many family events to possibly count. All NFL coaches make that bargain. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, first steps, first days of school … all of those are often relayed via phone and not dealt with in person for the men in the headsets on the sideline. A death in the family is perhaps the only excuse a coach can have to take a step away from the team. But Coughlin couldn’t fully separate himself from his job even when he was saying his final goodbyes to his brother.

“We all were in there together,” Coughlin said of he and his five sisters in John’s hospital room on Monday. “Then the doctors came by, the neurosurgeons, and they went further with the explanation and then we went back Monday night to say goodbye. It was that, and then you’re trying to get as much information as you can about the next opponent and you’re trying to go ahead and take care of things that you do.”

How well was Coughlin able to balance the tug-of-war? We’ll find out more on Sunday. But clearly he feels a tremendous responsibility to both his family and his team.

“My parents are gone, I’m the oldest, so you understand where the responsibility goes,” Coughlin said. “So I do that and do the best I can here with the guys. Fortunately, I have a veteran staff that’s been with me for a long time and they were told very early in the week what was going on and they’ve gone ahead and forged out and done the best they can with it.”

So has Coughlin.


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