Tom Terrific

There are moments in their working relationship when Jerald Ingram feels inclined to offer some free advice to his boss. But he resists the temptation. Still, there are certain instances when Ingram would like to serve up a suggestion to Tom Coughlin. <BR><BR>

"Sometimes you just want to say 'Calm down, calm down, think about your health, you're not a spring chicken any more,' '' Ingram said.

What, pray tell, would happen if Ingram, the Giants running backs coach, actually did tell Coughlin to cool it? How would he respond?

"He's told me to calm down,'' Ingram said. "He's something to watch, he really is. He's got a heck of a mind, he really does, and his heart is as big as anything.''

Having an assistant coach comment on Coughlin is rare indeed, considering Coughlin hasn't fallen far from the Bill Parcells tree when it comes to the "one voice'' philosophy. The one voice heard in the organization is that of the head coach. Coughlin does not allow his staff to converse with the media but he relented once prior to training camp and again during the Giants bye week. How revealing that what came tumbling out of the interviews were an assortment of engaging personalities and loads of eager talkers.

There was Kevin Gilbride, the quarterbacks coach, revved up and ready to wax poetic about Kurt Warner and Eli Manning. There was defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, easy-going and affable, deflecting any and all credit for the impressive way his unit regrouped after a terrible season opener. There was Billy Davis, the linebackers coach, patiently explaining how Kevin Lewis simply beat out Nick Greisen for the starting middle linebacker job. There was offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, bravely answering questions about his cancer treatment while stating that his oft-criticized group can get so much better. There was defensive backs coach Ron Milus, acknowledging the talent he has to work with and praising the play of rookie safety Gibril Wilson.

Even John Hufnagel, the offensive coordinator who shies away from the limelight, explained his approach to play-calling in concise, though hardly revealing, terms. These assistants mostly had not previously worked for Coughlin but all were in agreement that the head man was greatly responsible for the 4-1 start that delighted the Giants and their fans.

"I'm glad Tom speaks for me and everybody,'' said Ingram, who qualifies as a Coughlin expert. "I don't have time for this. I'm trying to win.''

Ingram spent three years working for Coughlin at Boston College and when Coughlin became the first coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, he brought Ingram with him. This is Ingram's 12th year working under Coughlin.

"He's tried to learn from molders of men, and you don't stop molding men after they get out of college,'' Ingram said. "When Tom Coughlin walks through that door you know one thing ... he's consistent. All he's doing is telling you what you need to be.''

Lewis had not worked with Coughlin before he was hired to be the Giants new defensive coordinator. After one week, Lewis and Co. were under fire for a disastrous showing in Philadelphia but ever since, the defense has stabilized and in the first five games forced an NFL-high 15 turnovers.

"I can keep it in perspective,'' said Lewis, who helped orchestrate several stout Pittsburgh defenses under Bill Cowher. "I've seen this thing go from really good to really bad in a hurry. The good thing is the head coach is the beacon and I just follow his lead.''

Just how does Coughlin relate to one of his top assistants?

"Just as you would expect,'' Lewis said. "He's a one-minute manager. What you see is what you get. No agenda. He coaches football.''

That's it. No song, no dance, no ego involved.

Davis, who most recently worked for Dan Reeves in Atlanta, said having Coughlin in charge actually helps keep order. His linebackers are a fairly low-key bunch even though free agent imports Carlos Emmons and Barrett Green have tasted success in the league and possess outgoing personalities.

"I think it's a little bit of the culture of what we ask of them,'' Davis said. "Don't need to go out on your own and do all the nonsense. As a group we talk about that in the linebacker room as we do in the defensive room and in the team room. To be professional and represent New York in one way and that's the group way, not the individual way, and I think that's just a little bit of the leadership of coach Coughlin and what he demands and expects of the players and coaches. I think it shows up in those guys the way they handle their business.''

As an offensive-minded coach – Coughlin was a receivers coach under Parcells with the Giants from 1988-90 – Coughlin is more inclined to work more closely with Hufnagel, who is calling the plays from the start of a season for the first time in the NFL. As with any head coach, Coughlin has final say on any plays called during a game but Hufnagel said he did not feel that he's been overruled often at all.

"I think that number one, you gain the wealth of his experience that he has within the league,'' Hufnagel said, "and he's on top of things and making sure that everything is right, fine tuning things, so it's an added bonus as far as the head coach being in the offensive room.''

As an experienced observer, Ingram says Coughlin is calmer now than he was when he first hooked up with him and that he's improved "as far as feel for the game and the player and the situation.''

The Giants wanted to make sure Coughlin had smoothed out some of the rough edges that led to his demise in the final years in Jacksonville. He admits he's changed somewhat but isn't sure he's calmer now than he was then.

"I don't know if that's true or not,'' Coughlin said. "I have a greater perspective, I've seen more things, I've allowed myself to study and look more. I'm probably not as volatile as I once was. On the other hand I believe stronger in what I believe in than I ever have.''

Ingram sounded incredulous when reminded of the problems Coughlin encountered almost immediately with the Giants, with players filing complaints to their union about offseason schedules and grumbling about getting fined for not arriving to meetings early enough.

"When you work for IBM and IBM says dress this way, do this, be on time, do your job and you're wrong, why are you gonna be upset?'' Ingram said. "It's written down. That comes with the territory. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? You're no different than any other person in life who's expected to do the right things.

"Whenever we're wrong all he does is say we're wrong. Can't you just be man enough to say 'I was wrong?'

"All he wants to do is win. That's all he's ever tried to do.''

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