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Gary Myers on Coughlin's stupidity
15 years ago  ::  Dec 04, 2006 - 4:22PM #1
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Clock ticks on Coughlin

Tom Coughlin has been powerless to stop one of the most disturbing meltdowns in Giants history, which could cost him his job in another month. His poor game management decisions and inability to control his chaotic locker room and get his players to buy into the discipline he constantly preaches have the Giants on playoff life support.

Just a few weeks ago, they had a comfortable two-game lead on the Cowboys in the NFC East. The issue was not winning the division, but catching the Bears for the No.1 seed in the NFC. But now they've lost four in a row. Dallas has won four in a row. And the Giants, two games back with four to play, are 6-6 and stuck battling for a wild-card spot.

It has all fallen apart so quickly. Plaxico Burress even called a timeout with 1:42 remaining yesterday that Coughlin did not want. That turned out to be crucial because it left the Cowboys too much time after the Giants had scored the tying touchdown with 1:06 left. If the Giants had managed the clock properly, the game would have gone into overtime.

"It was called on the field," Coughlin said. "I didn't call it."

After Tiki Barber took Eli Manning's short pass 28 yards to the Cowboys' 12, there should have been no rush for the Giants. Time was not a factor. "I thought I saw Coach Coughlin running up and down the sideline calling (for) a timeout," Burress said.

Coughlin running up and down the sideline is a much too frequent sight.

Still, Coughlin said he wasn't concerned that the Giants left too much time for Dallas. He downplayed the significance of the timeout. But even on the Burress score, the Giants were in a no-huddle and had snapped the ball with plenty of time on the play clock. They should have been draining the clock.

"That wasn't my thought," Coughlin said. "My thought was to score a touchdown."

Coughlin was remarkably composed after yesterday's 23-20 loss compared to his demeanor after the shocker last week in Tennessee. The Giants may be in sixth place in the NFC, but realistically, this season is just about over.

"No, it's not dire," Coughlin said when asked if that was an appropriate characterization of the Giants' predicament. "We needed to win a football game. All four of these (remaining) games are very, very critical, like the game we just played. We're going to stick together and we're going to work as hard as we can. We're going to find a way to win."

Then, he added, "We lost a game which we had an opportunity to win and nobody feels worse about it that I do."

The losses just keep getting more painful. Last week in Tennessee, the Giants blew a 21-0 fourth-quarter lead to rookie quarterback Vince Young and lost on Rob Bironas' 49-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. And then against Dallas, in the most important NFC East game of the season, they lost with one second remaining when Martin Gramatica, in his first game with the 'Boys, nailed a 46-yarder after the Giants had tied it up with 1:06 left.

Where is the trademark Coughlin discipline? The Giants had nine penalties for 94 yards, including four personal fouls. "We had too many penalties, obviously," he said. "Dumb penalties."

They also had three false starts in the first half. At home. That's inexcusable.

So are some of Coughlin's game day decisions. Three weeks ago against Chicago, he had Jay Feely attempt a 52-yard field goal into the wind. The Giants were trailing by just four points with more than 11 minutes remaining. The more logical decision was to let Jeff Feagles try to pin the Bears inside the 10. Instead, Feely's kick was very short and Devin Hester tied an NFL record for the longest play in history by returning it 108 yards for a touchdown.

So, with the Giants facing a fourth-and-inches at the Dallas 24 with 1:30 remaining in the first half of a 7-7 game, the decision was simple, it seemed: Let Feely try a 42-yard field goal, well within his range. It was clear every point was going to be crucial. But Coughlin decided to go for it with a predictable Brandon Jacobs run to the strong side. There is no consistency to his decision-making.

"Would I go for it on fourth down again? Yes," Coughlin said, asking and answering his own question. "It was within the length of the football."

Jacobs had the option of running inside or outside. Dallas got penetration on the play, Jacobs bounced outside and tried to get around DeMarcus Ware, the fastest Cowboys linebacker. "I don't question the decision, I don't question the call," Coughlin said. "He didn't make it."

If the ball goes to Jacobs, then he has to run right up the middle. Or have the Giants try a quarterback sneak. Do not risk anything outside. Ware tackled Jacobs for a 3-yard loss. The Cowboys then moved into position for Gramatica's 41-yard field goal.

Guess how much time was left? One second. The same one second left on the game-winner.

The Giants don't have much more time than that to get their season straightened out. Or for Coughlin to hold onto his job.

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