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  • Tom Coughlin: A Man Of Principle

    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.

    Comments 10 Comments
    1. brauneyz's Avatar
      This is what separates FP from any other football site - great human interest stories with a personal touch. Thanks, as always, to Phil for a great read. I know I speak for many of us here when I say how much we appreciate your contributions here.

      Oh yeah, Go Navy!
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      That was a great story about Coughlin and says a lot about his personality. I know some of the players have had issues with him in the past, but I'm glad he doesn't try to change who he is. Those players are better off for having some discipline. I'm not a Giants fan, but I respect somebody who follows his principles. Thanks Phil.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      My first impression of Tom Coughlin as Giants head coach was not a good one.

      He struck me as a stinkfried, a sour puss, a man born with a permanent whine planted on his face. Every shot of him on the sidelines, it looked like the cheese was stuck high up his constipated ass.

      But over the years, as people have told tales about him, I've come to greatly respect the man. I saw him "off duty" in some TV special with a retired player, very relaxed, and he seemed like a genuine person. I liked him.

      I respect what he's accomplished with the Giants. That he's been disciplined. And that his team always come to play.

      Phil, I'd love to hear in more detail what you mean by "his approach was as tough as any coach I've ever had." Could you give some examples? Never having had any formal coaching in sports, I don't really understand what you mean.

    1. Colts01's Avatar
      I'm with brauneyz,great story Phil.We love to hear about your playing days.Not sure if this one has been on here but heres a good bit on Phil and Harry Carson.THanks for being a part of this site Phil.

    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Nice story Phil. Not too many coaches stand on principles anymore in the pro game. Interestingly enough all that come to mind have rings. I guess that says something about old school insistance, and its potential benefit. Football is the penultimate team sport, and relies very heavily on each and every guy performing his job. One guy doesn't and it could be disastrous. Kudos to coughlin for sticking to his morals, and the team delivering anyway in the wake of missing one of their best players for a half. Coughlin knew how to coach em up in a big game. Garrett didn't, and that played a part in the score.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      While there is a short-term benefit in not standing on principles, there is a long-term detriment if the coach doesn't stand on his beliefs. He starts losing credibility in the locker room and respect as an authority figure. Or he's accused of having "favorites". So while I respect Tom Coughlin for holding true on his principles, I also think its just good coaching to do so.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      Tom Coughlin was the wingback at Syracuse University. The two backs he worked with were Larry Cszonka and Floyd Little. College Football Hall of Famer Ben Schwartzwalder was his mentor and extremely proud of Tom Coughlin. He got a great foundation from his college years of football. The significant charity work he still does to this day in Jacksonville from his coaching days there speaks volumes about the man's compassion and character.
    1. Curtis's Avatar
      Great story, Phil. I think Coughlin is a fine coach. He is the kind of guy that I would like as a HC of my NFL team, and also the kind of guy I would have loved to play for. I admire toughness and integrity in a person, I gravitate towards people like that. Last season when the Giants missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record, he told his detractors to line up and kiss his ass. I respect that immensely. My kind of guy.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Dave Lapham View Post
      Tom Coughlin was the wingback at Syracuse University. The two backs he worked with were Larry Cszonka and Floyd Little. College Football Hall of Famer Ben Schwartzwalder was his mentor and extremely proud of Tom Coughlin. He got a great foundation from his college years of football. The significant charity work he still does to this day in Jacksonville from his coaching days there speaks volumes about the man's compassion and character.
      That's surprising.. coughlin shared a backfield with csonka and little?!!! I would have never guessed that. However I'm sure who got the fewest touches!! Perhaps its the fact I see coughlin every week, but he seems to me older then little or csonka. I know that's incorrect, but odd how it shades your view...
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Thanks for sharing Phil. Don't discount it man. If Bill Parcells asks for your opinion on such a subject, I know that's part of the equation for his decision. It hurts me as a Cowboys fan but nice win on SNF! NYG look to be NFCE Champs.