Who's Tom Coughlin? No one yet knows

It has been almost one excruciating year since Tom Coughlin was named Giants coach. One year and Coughlin remains as much a mystery as the day he made the Gen. Schwarzkopf speech in his opening news conference.

Who is this guy?

Is he the guy who will turn the Giants into a championship contender?

Or the guy who will wear out his welcome faster than a '70s hippie at a Bush rally?

Nobody knows, of course, unless you count Coughlin. He knows everything, as he's quick to remind the minions surrounding him.

That's the problem. Coughlin's combative personality eliminated his honeymoon period in New York. Players generally have shown a distaste for him from the start. The media aren't exactly lining up to support him because he could care less about them.

Fine, we had heard about Coughlin's rigidity before he was hired. But who is this guy? Is he as personality-challenged as he seems?

It certainly looks to be that way. But we don't really know because Coughlin won't let us inside, not for a moment.

Fans wanting an in-depth look at Coughlin must be disappointed. He has no regard for the media, even less so for print regulars forced upon him almost daily.

Dealing with the media is a chore, an agonizing dent in his schedule. Coughlin acts like he can't wait for the sessions to end. He often gives short, sharp answers. On at least one occasion, he's headed out of the news conference in mid-question, ignoring the reporter as a power-walking New York City yuppie would a homeless man.

Almost every coach in every sport has an open line of communication with at least one reporter. Coughlin is the exception. A couple of us just shook our head as Coughlin barely broke stride while a radio beat reporter tried to introduce himself early in the season. Coughlin had no interest in the smallest of small talk, a handshake and a hello.

There have been occasional moments when Coughlin showed his human side. He was passionate and long-winded during a media session reserved to promote his charity, the Jay Fund Foundation. In the audience was his daughter, Keli, who helps run the foundation and perhaps brought out the best in dad.

Coughlin's words exuded warmth and caring for his former player at Boston College, Jay McGillis, who died of leukemia and for whom the fund was named. The charity helps local children afflicted with cancer and their families offset peripheral costs of battling the disease.

But it was impossible to ignore the idea that Coughlin's cooperation was purely self-serving to market the fund. He was back to his icy self when the discussion turned to Giants football.

Nobody will pay much attention to Coughlin's behavior provided he wins. But the Giants took a seven-game losing streak into Cincinnati. They have had more injuries and internal problems than last season.

Can Coughlin start to turn things around in 2005? He better find some talent in the off-season, and he better start by stabilizing the offensive line.

Maybe it's best not to judge Coughlin in the worst of times. But at the very least, it's worth asking if Coughlin is the right fit for the Giants.

Who is this guy?

We better find out soon.

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