When Coughlin was hired in January of 2004 and the Giants made the trade for Manning on draft day nearly four months later, the entire organization would have signed up for one Super Bowl title regardless of how long their run together lasted.
And they did that.
But with the Giants collapsing once again at the end of the year, disposing another promising season in the garbage can, what Coughlin and Manning have accomplished just doesn’t feel like enough anymore.
It feels like they have underachieved. They’ve made it into so many Decembers looking like the best team in the league before just running out of gas.
If this coach-quarterback combination is broken up after the season, then Coughlin will be the one to go. Coaches are replaceable. Bill Cowher is a phone call away. The Giants know where to find him. Every Sunday he’s on the West Side of Manhattan at the CBS studios.
Manning is the face of the franchise. Franchise quarterbacks are much harder to find, even those who lead the NFL with 24 interceptions. And when the Giants signed Manning to that seven-year, $106.9 million contract that included $35 million guaranteed in the summer of 2009, they were locked in. He was their guy. And he still is.
So, the decision John Mara and Steve Tisch will have to make is whether Coughlin and Manning, as a tandem, have taken the Giants as far as they can together in the post-Super Bowl years. Remember, the years before the Super Bowl and after it have been nothing but unfulfilled expectations, late-season collapses and three one-and-done playoff appearances.
Does this Coughlin-Manning show need to end if the Giants don’t make the playoffs?
Does this Coughlin-Manning show need to end if the Giants don’t make the playoffs? Of course, there are other issues, some bigger than the coach and the quarterback – how about pride and heart and 73 points given up in the last half of the fourth quarter against the Eagles and in four quarters against the Packers – but if a culture change is needed on the Giants, then ownership usually starts off with the coach.
Now the strange thing is the Giants are not out of the wild-card race just yet. And if they beat the Redskins on the road on Sunday, can Mara and Tisch fire Coughlin if he wins 10 games but doesn’t make the playoffs? That would be hard to do.
Remember, after the way the Giants quit at the end of last season, they were not expected to be a playoff contender this year. The Giants hierarchy is looking for every reason to keep Coughlin instead of every reason to fire him, but the last two weeks must be testing its loyalty and patience.