Jim Fassel might have stood by as Tiki Barber fumbled, Ike Hilliard got injured and Jeremy Shockey embarrassed himself and the organization after big plays. Don't be fooled into thinking Tom Coughlin will. No, Coughlin isn't nearly as bad or dictatorial as most accounts would lead you to believe. But he is very driven, impatient and will not stand for mistakes – mental or physical – and despises injuries.
Ike Charlton, signed by the Giants late last season, played under Coughlin in Jacksonville in 2002. The cornerback had some advice for his new mates – "Being injured around Coughlin isn't a lot of fun."
In his initial press conference, Coughlin said the Giants' extensive Injured Reserve list was "mental" and "a cancer." Have to think the dozen players who ended the year on IR don't plan to do so next year, if they plan on staying in New York, that is.
Let's take a closer look at the Giants roster, and which players might be affected by the new 'General' in town.
QB – Coughlin didn't exactly give Kerry Collins a ringing endorsement during his opening press conference. Now Coughlin didn't say that he didn't like Collins and that he wouldn't be the club's QB next season. But with former signal-caller Mark Brunell on record as saying he'd love to play for Coughlin again, the Giants sitting in a position to draft a franchise quarterback, and the fact that Collins is heading into the final year of his contract, number 5, who threw 16 INTs last season, is nowhere near as secure as he was under Jim Fassel.
RB – Tiki Barber tied for the league lead in most lost fumbles last year. You can bet your bottom dollar that Barber won't reach that number of fumbles in 2004. Whether he goes back to his old self and holds onto the ball consistently, or rides the bench as Coughlin calls the number of someone who can, you can bet that the football won't be flying from the hands of Giants offensive players anywhere nearly as much as it did last year. Coughlin said he thinks the Giants can fix whatever's been ailing Barber, who's well aware that the fumbling must stop. If not, a less talented but more sure-handed guy will be in the backfield.
WR – Ike Hilliard is everything a coach would want in a receiver – except a coach like Coughlin who abhors players that are injured. The tough-as-nails Hilliard is going to have to play hurt even more than he has in the past or he might be sent packing. Ditto for the talented, but injury-prone Tim Carter. As for Ron Dixon, who can't even make it to meetings on time? You're kidding, right? Even someone as established as Amani Toomer can't plan to drop as many balls and keep his job under the pass-happy Coughlin.
TE – You get the picture by now. How do you think Tom Coughlin would handle Jeremy Shockey drawing a 15-yard penalty for taunting or excessive celebration? You're right. He'd pull him from the game – immediately. Coughlin said in his opening conference that he wants Shockey to be perceived as a pro, which can only happen if he acts like one. We can promise you this: Shockey has put himself ahead of the team – whether on the field or off – for the final time, as long as Coughlin's around.
OL – Kind of find it hard to believe that the man who drafted Tony Boselli is going to seek out rookie free agents to protect his quarterback. One high-ranking official recently said "Ian Allen is not going to be our right tackle next season." Don't be surprised if most of last year's linemen either become backups or players on other teams. And Luke Petitgout, the line's leader, better cut out all the penalties.
DL – While nothing was official at press time, it appeared that Keith Hamilton still intended to hang up the spikes, quite possibly partially due to the fact that Coughlin was named coach. In the last couple years, Hammer became famous for sitting on the water cooler during practices. He knows that's not going to happen now. Nor will all the easy practices without pads that Fassel was so fond of. While Michael Strahan has the work ethic, heart and desire that Coughlin loves, you have to wonder what the new boss is going to think of last year's number one, William Joseph, who is the anti-Strahan is those departments.
LB – You also have to wonder how a player like Micheal Barrow fits into Coughlin's plans. Very heady and a dependable tackler, Barrow is notorious for his lack of big plays. Coughlin's going to have his defenders working on stripping the ball from the get-go. Either Barrow, who will need to take a pay-cut to return, learns to force TOs, or he learns not to play under Coughlin. Have to think free agent Dhani Jones, he of the countless mental errors, isn't a high priority for Coughlin to re-sign as well.
DB – Nowhere on this club is the lack of playmaking more evident than in the defensive backfield. The Giants finished with a franchise-low 10 INTs in 2003. Dependable players that can't force turnovers like safeties Shaun Williams, who has a very high price tag, and Omar Stoutmire could become extinct under Coughlin. The new coach will love his dependable, tough, physical corners – Will Allen and Will Peterson – but will probably expect them to play through some of the injuries that have sidelined them in the past.
ST – Reserve players that basically contribute only on special teams will also mostly become a thing of the past. Coughlin takes special teams very seriously and is likely to have several starters on board. Those middle-of-the-road types that couldn't block for Brian Mitchell to save their lives are probably going to find themselves out of work by the time training camp ends.
Coaches – Those requiring sunglasses or sunscreen to protect them from the hot New York sun will find themselves thrown out on their ear. Just joking, of course. Despite all the tough talk, remember that football's only a game. Just please don't tell Coach I said that.
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