‘Fi-re Cough-lin'

This story was supposed to be about Tiki Barber's heroic performance in his final Giants Stadium appearance. It was supposed to be about Michael Strahan's triumphant return to the starting lineup after missing the last month-and-a-half. At the least, it was supposed to be about New York showing some pride and keeping itself alive in the playoff race, realistically at least.

Yet, by the time the scoreboard clock had reached the midway point of the third quarter, with the score Saints 20, Giants 7, the fans spoke out: "Fire Coughlin! Fire Coughlin!"

Now the Mara family hasn't made a living – and a fortune – listening to every disgruntled fan around. But this season has spiraled out of control and the organization has only one option – blow it all up and start over. Next season's going to have a brand new GM and a brand new RB. It's high time that a brand new head coach and coaching staff join those guys as well. Whether or not this team totally sneaks into the back door of the playoffs is not the issue. The fact that they're so obviously going nowhere fast is what needs to be addressed.

Coughlin prides himself on discipline. Yet it was back-to-back ridiculously undisciplined plays by Giants offensive linemen, of all people, that preceded the derisive chants. With one mid-third quarter play, it became obvious that Coughlin has long lost this team. Bob Whitfield was flagged for head-butting Scott Fujita. Incredibly, that's the second time that Whitfield was flagged for the same ridiculous penalty this season. You think once would have been enough for Coughlin, a stickler for penalty-free football. Before the officials had picked up that yellow hanky, on the very next play, center and team leader Shaun O'Hara was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

The ignominy only subsided when Coughlin's challenge to prevent Reggie Bush's punt return for a touchdown was upheld. But the damage had been done. Heck the damage has been done for quite some time now. Coughlin came along promising to restore Giants pride. This season is about as embarrassing as any under Jim Fassel. Pride? These Giants fans should be wearing bags over their heads, like the long-lost Saints supporters used to.

"It wasn't a good product," Barber said. "It was an embarrassing product."

The Giants fans deserve better than this. More than 70,000 people left their families to come watch their team on Christmas Eve. Their present? Yet another disgusting defeat in a very winnable game, and the club's fifth home defeat out of eight games.

"I feel badly for all Giants fans today – I really do," Coughlin said. "On Christmas Eve, to have to lose a game the way that this game was lost. I feel badly for all New York Giants fans. Today was not a good day at all."

Actually most fans had seen enough with close to a full quarter to play. Once Deuce McAllister bust through the Giants defense once again, for a nine-yard touchdown that increased the lead to 27-7, countless Giants fans beat feet to the parking lot. At least they were spared having to watch the rest of the game unfold.

The same can't be said for John Mara and Steve Tisch. Of course the Giants new leaders want nothing to do with firing the last hire of Wellington Mara. But it's come to the point where they must. They absolutely have to make a change. To say Coughlin has lost the team would be an understatement of epic proportions.

These Giants were flat, undisciplined and appeared unprepared from minutes after the opening gun. Sure things started quickly, as they so often have this season. But after Plaxico Burress' impressive individual effort, it was all downhill from there. There were the usual dropped passes, missed assignments and foolish penalties. The icing on the cake? O'Hara's shotgun snap to an unsuspecting Eli Manning that beat Manning five-hole. The Saints' Charles Grant recovered and the rout was not only on but picking up steam in the worst way.

The Giants were lifeless, playing without emotion, without purpose – with their playoff lives on the line! Not even Barber's swan song or Strahan's return could inject life into this unit. All week they talked the talk, as they have all season. Then they went out and failed to walk the walk, as they have so often this season.

Coughlin was asked after the game if he heard the fans' negative chants. He claimed that he "didn't pay any attention."

Then he was asked if he were concerned about his job security. His response? "I'm concerned about this next game."

This was every bit as bad as the snowball game that doomed Dan Reeves at the end of the 1995 season. The only difference was the Giants came into this one with plenty on the line. A decade ago, ownership allowed Reeves one more season, which turned into a 6-10 nightmare in 1996. Hopefully Big Blue's brass has learned from its mistakes and doesn't do the same with Coughlin.

Tiki Barber deserved better in his final home game. At least he's going out on his own terms. If the Giants do the right thing, Tom Coughlin won't be able to say the same.

But let's remember that there's much more to life than football. From all of us here at The Giant Insider to all of you Giants fans: Our best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous New Year.

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