Has Tom Coughlin proven to be a better coach ?

<b>Paul Schwartz: </b> All we heard out of the Giants hierarchy when Jim Fassel was fired and Tom Coughlin was hired was that now we'd see a focused, driven, no-agenda coach who would get this franchise righted and winning.

Then the Giants have a miserable summer and preseason and a hideous season-opening loss and everyone is quick to brand them the same-old Giants. Then they win four straight and Coughlin is hailed locally and, at least in one respected national publication, dubbed the first-half NFL Coach of the Year. Then injuries hit, the Giants sink and after nine games they sit at 5-4 and slip-sliding away. The Giants at the same juncture a year ago were 4-5 under Fassel and tumbling into NFL oblivion. Has the coaching change brought about the dramatic change the organization sought? I say no.

Ken Palmer: Everyone knew Coughlin's affect on the club was going to take time. You can't expect an overnight change when you bring in one of the game's toughest, most unyielding coaches following one of the game's softest. Sure their records were similar through nine games, but do you honestly believe that Coughlin would sit idly by as his team quits and lays down during the season's second half like Fassel did last year? He might have only 25 players left on his roster, but Coughlin won't stand for that type of play/behavior. These Giants might not like Coughlin like they did Fassel, but they sure do listen to him all the time. He most definitely always has their attention, which is something you could never say about Fassel and his clubs. That's exactly what the Giants needed and Coughlin's given them that.

PS: Fassel was an offensive-minded coach heaped with massive criticism when his offense failed to deliver. Well, Coughlin's expertise is offense and have you noticed what the big problem with this team is? Coughlin can't solve many of the deficiencies he inherited. The Giants are lousy in short-yardage situations, can't protect the quarterback worth a damn, can't score enough touchdowns in the red zone. Sound familiar? Kenny, I know you just served as best man at the wedding of one of your buddies. I hope that marriage lasts longer than some of the Giants offensive possessions. At some point, Kurt Warner's inability to release the ball quickly enough or generate enough points was an indictment of Warner, but Coughlin and his staff sure haven't produced the results with this veteran quarterback the way Fassel helped turn Kerry Collins around. And at least Fassel figured out ways to get Jeremy Shockey the ball in places where he could do the most damage.

KP: Sure, Fassel's such a great coach that no one even gave him a sniff after the Giants fired him. Fassel did a good job with what he had; Coughlin, however, has done even better. Just because New York signed and drafted new offensive linemen doesn't mean that they're better. Not even Vince Lombardi could get this offense going behind this front five. They're really playing poorly. All Coughlin's been able to do is teach Tiki Barber how to hold onto the ball, how to run harder than he ever has and have him pointed in the direction of the Pro Bowl. Your boy Fassel never got this much out of Barber in a full season, let alone half a year.

PS: Sometimes Coughlin made it sound like by talking tough and stern and not smiling he could cure what ailed the Giants under Fassel. How about that "injuries are a cancer'' bit back when he was hired? We know what he meant, that having a load of quality players on the injured list could be the ruination of a team. But he made it sound like players wouldn't play hurt for Fassel. Have you taken a gander at the Giants injury list at the moment? Omar Stoutmire. Shaun Williams. Michael Strahan. Keith Washington. Tim Carter. No, Tom, injuries aren't a cancer; they're an unfortunate part of the game. As always, the medical staff has the most say when it comes to who's healthy enough to practice and play. It had nothing to do with Fassel's demeanor or personality.

KP: You're right, Paul, that's why Coughlin came in and immediately decided he wanted nothing to do with a guy like Cornelius Griffin, who basically skated through his final three years under Fassel after a solid rookie campaign. You going to tell me Griffin played hurt? Coughlin would have lit a fire under the kid or sat him down. Joe Gibbs apparently must know a little something about coaching as well, since Griffin is flourishing in Washington under new tutelage. What Coughlin's also been able to do is plug in young, untested players and for the most part, have the club not miss a beat. You think Fassel would have the guts to insert a rookie fifth-rounder like Gibril Wilson into the lineup? Doubt it; he'd probably just sign Brandon Sanders again. How about Jamaar Taylor in for Tim Carter? Sure beats Kevin Alexander, no? No, Coughlin can't work miracles with injured players; he's learned that the hard way this year. But he certainly gets more out of players with ailments than Fassel could, and does a much better job of filling holes when need be.

PS: When the Giants were seemingly scooping up every loose ball and leading the league in turnover ratio, it sure looked as if Coughlin had uncovered some magic formula. Lately, with the ball not bouncing quite so fortuitously, the magic is gone. And did you get a glimpse of the Giants out in Arizona? Ten penalties for 97 yards? Where was the glorious discipline Coughlin demands? Did you get a look at the way the offensive line caved in whenever the defensive line sent pressure its way? Coughlin said the Giants spent 75 percent of their time in practice working against pressure packages. A lot of good it did. Fassel regularly was abused for saying he worked and worked at something and the problem never got solved. There's no doubt Coughlin knows what he's doing and he might even eventually be successful with the Giants. But there's no overwhelming evidence right now that he's a major coaching upgrade over the man he replaced.

KP: Tom Coughlin forgets more about football, offense and special teams especially, on a daily basis than Jim Fassel ever even knew. Admit it, Paul, there have been plenty of times since Coughlin took over that he said or did something that made you think: "Wow, Jim never would have thought of that." The Giants players, to a man, will tell you they get more out of one Coughlin practice than they did a full week of work under Fassel. Tim Lewis or Johnnie Lynn? That's akin to choosing between Ken Palmer and Paul Schwartz in a double coverage debate. Coughlin gets the obvious nod for being more prepared, more disciplined, knowing the game better and most of all being confident enough to surround himself with a talented staff of assistants, something the insecure Fassel never did in seven seasons in New York.

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