More to Coughlin than meets the eye

It was hardly the Giants' best practice in Albany midway through his second training camp. However, this one was different for head coach Tom Coughlin – much different. He had two special visitors – his two-year-old grandson Dylan and daughter Katie – waiting for him at the end of the workout.

There was Coughlin, having just finished his daily media briefing, playfully walking and gesturing toward his grandson, whom he spent quite a while with. For an outsider who only gets to see certain sides of Coughlin, viewing the Giants rigid coach throwing his grandson into the air and catching him was quite a sight to see.

"We were coming off a bad practice," Coughlin's son-in-law Chris Snee said. "He saw Dylan and it changed. He even told my wife that it picked him up after a bad practice."

It was widely reported last season – here first – how many Giants players were angry about Coughlin's rules and coaching tactics. What is becoming more and more obvious in his second season is that Coughlin isn't the ogre that he's made out to be. Sure he might run a tight ship, and recently angered a few players for fining them for showing up late, but when it comes right down to it, he's just a regular guy. Yes, we know, that's a little hard to believe.

So, The Giant Insider enlisted the help of someone who knows Coughlin better than most – the eldest of his four children, daughter Keli.

"There's a very sensitive and caring side to him," Keli Coughlin told TGI.

This past summer, while on vacation, Keli recalled how her father spent most of his time in the pool with Dylan and two-year-old granddaughter Emma.

"He was like a kid himself," she said. "He'd wake up first thing in the morning to see if these two-year-olds could play and he'd be the one disappointed if they couldn't hang out."

"Off the field, he's a family guy," Snee added. "When he's around his three grandchildren, it's fun to see."

The big question in year two under Coughlin is how much, if at all, has he changed. The answer is basically not at all – just that the players have gotten more used to him.

"I don't know that he's really changed that much," Osi Umenyiora said. "I just think the players have adapted and bought into what he's trying to get us to do. He wants us to be five minutes early, then we're five minutes early."

While he's pretty tough on them regarding football matters, for sure, Coughlin has a better relationship with his players than many probably think.

"People don't realize that he really cares about his players as much off the field as he does on it," Keli Coughlin said. "He cares about them as people."

Tiki Barber, for one, has seen it first-hand.

"He came last year when I was hosting on Fox & Friends and visited the set," Barber said. "He surprised me and was great on camera.

"Last year, one of my sons had health issues. He was great with giving me support, and always asked me how he was doing. He told me if I ever needed anything that I could just go or he'd send someone over to be with (Barber's wife) Ginny."

While it might have taken a while, the players are now starting to see Tom Coughlin the man as well as Tom Coughlin the coach.

Just listen to Michael Strahan and Barrett Green, two players that certainly butted heads with their boss last season.

"He's allowed us to be more self-expressive, to be ourselves," Strahan said. "There's a side that comes out every once in a while where you see the human emotion."

"He's a lot more comfortable with the people he's dealing with," Green said. "He is human, he does show emotion."

While some players still question Coughlin's guidelines, it appears everyone's pretty much along for the ride.

"It's really nothing you wouldn't expect to be disciplined on," said 14-year vet Bob Whitfield. "It should just become like normal everyday operation. Like the five-minute clock rule. Hell, if you just set your watch to the Tom Time, then you'll always be on time. My watch is already set to Tom Time.

"He ain't that bad. They make him out to be an ogre demon with an axe that's going to cut you if you step the wrong way. Tom's a good coach. He knows how to get the most out of players."

"The things he asks you to do are clearly not as bad," Umenyiora added, "show up five minutes early, what's the difference. It's not that bad at all."

What angers Keli Coughlin the most is that her father got his reputation as a terror years ago and it has followed him ever since.

"It's really disappointing that everyone always thinks all these bad things about him," she said. "There are no original stories about him now – never. Everyone continues the stories from early in Jacksonville. Why can't anyone come up with something new?"

Keli works closely with her father on the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, which works to improve the quality of life for families with cancer-stricken children by lessening the financial burden and providing emotional support.

"He's amazingly caring and generous with these families," she said. "He goes out of his way and says and does whatever he has to in order to make these kids happy."

As his players continue to get to know him, they realize Coughlin's quite a different person when he's between the lines and when he's not.

"He definitely has a heart in there, but he covers it on the field," Barber stated. "When he's on his job, he's completely different than when he's with his family or friends. That's OK. That's just how he operates."

"If anything, he's a little more friendly and talkative," Jim Finn said. "He cares about his family just like everybody else does. He's definitely a good person. I have nothing bad to say about the guy."

Keli Coughlin has one piece of advice for all those who think they know the real Tom Coughlin: "His bark is worse than his bite."

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