The Giants' 17-14 win over the Redskins probably meant more to Tom Coughlin than anyone else on the team. It was his job, after all, which people thought was in jeopardy.
But co-owner John Mara put that to rest right after the game when he told the media that Coughlin would return for 2011.
"I believe in the guy," Mara said. "I believe in stability. The players play hard for him."
So now we can stop all the talk about firing the white-haired coach. Put that fourth-quarter meltdown against Philadelphia and that 45-17 shellacking to Green Bay in the rear view mirror. Because, let's face it, even though the Giants should have made the playoffs and didn't thanks to Green Bay's win over Chicago, it's very hard to fire a coach who just won 10 games in a season.
The only question now is whether Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch hand him a one-year extension similar to the one he received after sneaking into the 2006 playoffs at 8-8.
"That's a discussion for a later date," Mara said.
Perhaps. But consider that NFL owners tend not to prefer lame-duck coaches, which is what Coughlin will be if he's not extended.
He deserves the year, if only because he's proved himself a winning coach. Not a playoff coach; not this year. But how many seasons does a 10-6 team not make the playoffs? Not many. This was only the seventh time it's happened since the NFL went to a two-wildcard setup in 1990.
Coughlin prevented the locker room from splitting apart during the bad times, kept the team together, and had the players believing in an unselfish mentality.
Even Antrel Rolle's early criticism of the coaches and teammates after the Indianapolis game was quickly squashed. He said plenty of stupid things after that, but none of them contained the negativity of his post-Colts walloping comments.
They still compiled a healthy number of wins despite a decidedly unhealthy roster that, in keeping with the season's theme, expanded by one when Rich Seubert was carted off the field in the first quarter with a suspected torn patella tendon. They worked at the end without Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks, and Shaun O'Hara.
That's good coaching, whether the product was ugly or not.
This space never believed he'd lose his job even at 9-7, anyway. Mara confirmed that after the game when he said he'd told Coughlin early in the week that he'd be back. But somebody may still pay a price. The obvious target is special teams coach Tom Quinn, whose punt coverage and punt return teams never did come around. But that is for the future. Right now, it's likely ownership will negotiate a one-year extension for Coughlin.
So the Giants have their coach for 2011, and stability heading into an offseason where labor issues could jeopardize that season.
The only bad thing is that the Giants didn't make the playoffs. It's their own fault.
But Mara showed it wasn't the head coach's fault.
"The only time you make a coaching change is when the players aren't responding to the coach," Mara said. "That is not the case here."