Two years ago, Giants coach Tom Coughlin widely was believed to be in grave danger (is there another kind?) of being fired.
So Coughlin underwent a stunning late-career transformation, and his new approach helped the team dig out of an 0-2 start (during which they gave up 80 points), culminating in an unlikely Super Bowl win.
Two years later, Coughlin and the Giants have put together precisely the kind of season that would have gotten him fired in 2007.
And with Coughlin, 63, having only two years left on his contract, the Giants have to look at the team’s late-season meltdown, featuring a Week 17 game in which it appeared that they weren’t even trying to keep it close, and the Giants have to decide whether now is the time to make a change.
Maybe, at the end of the day, the Giants decide to stand pat. But regardless of whether the team’s collapse from 5-0 to 8-8 can be blamed on poor offensive line play, a rash of injuries (which Coughlin famously called a “cancer” when he was hired), or the subpar performance of Bill Sheridan, the man Coughlin hired to replace defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Coughlin ultimately is responsible.
The question of whether Coughlin stays, as we pointed out in last week’s SportingNews.com 10-pack, should be considered in conjunction with the broader issue of succession.
Coughlin will be 65 when his contract expires. Will he be given an extension? Or will he coach out the final two years of his contract and then leave?
A critical factor in this regard will be the quality of the potential replacement candidates. And so the Giants will have to look at who they think they could get now, who they think they could get in 2011, and who they think they could get in 2012.
Given the lethargic manner in which Coughlin helped the franchise close down Giants Stadium, the team also should consider whether the occasion of moving into a new house brings with it the necessity of hiring a new coach.
Regardless of whether he comes back or doesn’t, the Giants would be foolish to give Coughlin a pass simply because he won a Super Bowl two years ago.
In NFL terms, that might as well have been two decades ago.