I’ve been a New York Giants football fan for more years than I care to admit but nothing like my daughter, Lizzy, who is a fan/addict (pronounced fanatic). I was delighted to be able to take her to see the Giants defeat the Patriots four years ago (at considerable risk to my aging body since she could not resist taunting New Englanders before, during and especially after the game) and to get tickets for her and her sister Laura to see the sequel yesterday.
But I digress from the menu, which today is crow, the result of a blog I wrote about a year ago, titled The Giant Hobgoblin. In it, I spared no statistic, anecdote or sarcastic remark to make the case that Tom Coughlin, the Giants head coach, should have been fired instead of having his contract extended. And as late as the end of last year, it seemed many others had leapt upon this bandwagon, as the team appeared headed for the ignominy of once again failing to make the playoffs under what I was convinced was Coughlin’s inept leadership.
We now know different. Very different.
As the Giants completed a run of six consecutive wins culminating in yesterday’s Super Bowl victory, virtually every commentator, most of them ex-players and head couches, attributed this success to the coaching of Coughlin (and, of course, the exceptional play of Eli Manning). And clearly, the players themselves have great respect, if not love, for their coach. Nobody spoke of Coughlin’s strategic planning, which I think still remains quite conventional and without much innovation. But all heaped praise on his ability to instill unity and determination at times when the frustration of loss after loss would likely undo most any other team. The term “mental toughness” often described what Coughlin preached to motivate egos that under other leadership (need I mention Rex Ryan?) would crumble into petulance and whining. And some observers made the very salient point that Coughlin’s two Super Bowl wins came four years apart not with a consistent group of players but with very different rosters, albeit still having a dramatically improved Manning leading the team on the field. As it turns out, these two accomplishments are more difficult and maybe even more valuable than strategic cleverness.
So today, I am eating crow and enjoying it. At the end of the game, Lizzy actually “high fived” Manning or as Laura texted me, “She touched him!” I’d do the same for Coughlin.