Last night, the Giants were playing for their playoff lives, and Tom Coughlin was coaching for his job. A loss in prime time to their division rivals would have almost ended their chance at the post season. Another late season swoon could have the team looking for new leadership. Everything was on the line against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
In a game like that, you need all your players, especially your best players. Ahmad Bradshaw is one of the best players on the Giants. He violated team rules and Coughlin benched him for the first half of the game last night. When asked about it, he said it was based on "principle".
Think about the times we live in, to have a coach at the professional level put principle before winning, is something you just don't see anymore. Say what you will about him, but the man has character and integrity. He's as honest as they come. His rigidness and discipline rubs some players the wrong way(Tiki Barber), but he's always true to himself.
My first experience with Coughlin was 25 years ago after I got cut by the Giants at the start of the 1986 season. The Packers claimed me off waivers and I joined a receiving corps of James Lofton, Phillip Epps, and Walter Stanley (imagine carrying only four wide receivers on the roster in today's NFL). Tom was the WR's coach and from day one, his approach was as tough as any coach I've ever had.
After four weeks, the Giants traded to get me back and we went on to win Super Bowl XXI. Following the strike shortened debacle that was the 1987 season, Parcells fired our WR's coach, my friend Pat Hodgson. I remember being in the weight room soon after. Parcells came up and asked me about Coughlin. I'm not saying that my recommendation had anything to do with it, but Tom became our coach.
His work ethic and intensity was legendary. He was, and still is, one of the most focused human beings I've ever been around. But beneath that rough exterior, is an extremely compassionate and caring man. He is brutally honest. Maybe it was my military background, but I understood and was comfortable with his type of leadership.
As an example of his focus and intensity, there's a great story of him commuting to work in 1988 with the Giants offensive line coach, Fred Hoaglin. Fred was the antithesis of Coughlin, a very laid back guy who seldom raised his voice. They lived close to each other in western New Jersey and would alternate weeks driving. One particular day when Tom was driving, there was an accident on Interstate 80 heading east that stut down the highway for 45 minutes. As they were at a complete stop, Fred got out of the car, lit a cigar, and carried on conversations with a few other people that were in the same predicament. When they noticed that the traffic was beginning to move, Fred went back to the car. Tom Coughlin, steaming that he might be late for work, had both hands on the wheel, the car in drive with his foot on the brake. He was in that position for the entire time, just to be ready for any movement ahead of him. He hadn't even noticed that Fred had gotten out of the car.
I'm not sure if the Giants will make the playoffs or that Coughlin will coach after this season. But one thing I know is that Tom Coughlin will always do things his way, the right way.