Coughlin Could just be Biding Tynes

Ordinarily, a kicker consistently connecting on field-goal attempts during a Friday afternoon practice in October isn't all that noteworthy.

But Lawrence Tynes' troubles throughout the previous day's practice prompted a reporter to ask Tom Coughlin what he thought of the Giants' struggling place-kicker's practice performance.

"It's a miracle," Coughlin said. "It's an absolute miracle. I don't know."

Coughlin has every reason not to know what to make of the wildly inconsistent Tynes as the Giants approach their seventh regular-season game. And frankly, a midseason miracle might be necessary to have this Tynes issue not become a factor in an upcoming 10-game stretch that'll determine Coughlin's fate as the Giants' head coach. Then again, the fourth-year coach and general manager Jerry Reese have no one to blame but themselves for allowing the uncertainty at kicker to become perhaps their foremost problem as the fight for the Giants' third playoff berth in a row gets interesting.

They definitely didn't have to find themselves in this precarious position as all these daunting games, many of which could be decided by kickers, loom on their schedule.

All they would've needed to do was re-sign Jay Feely before he hit the free-agent market in March, and they wouldn't have had to try out two kickers on the Tuesday after Tynes somehow managed to miss a 34-yard field goal and an extra point in the same game.

Feely wasn't Adam Vinatieri, either, but he was pretty consistent overall in the two seasons he spent with the Giants after replacing Steve Christie, who wasn't exactly automatic outside of 30 yards during his lone season as a Giant in 2004. Once he overcame a mental meltdown that led to those three missed field goals during the Seattle debacle in November 2005, Feely was especially reliable last season, when he missed only four field-goal attempts in 16 games. The diminutive Michigan alum also connected on each of the 81 extra points he attempted combined in 2005 and 2006 (Tynes has missed five in three-plus NFL seasons).

The Giants showed some moderate interest once Feely became an unrestricted free agent seven months ago, yet they allowed the seventh-year veteran to sign a three-year, $6 million deal, which included $2.5 million in guaranteed money, with Miami on March 7. That is obviously a steep price to pay for a kicker, but he has already paid dividends with the Dolphins, whom the Giants will meet on Oct. 28 in London.

In fact, the 31-year-old Feely has been one of the NFL's finest kickers this season. While Trent Green has had difficulty making Cam Cameron's first season in Miami memorable for the right reasons, Feely has been one of the Dolphins' most effective offensive weapons. Entering their road game Sunday against Cleveland, Feely was perfect for 2007, as he had made each of his 11 field-goal tries and all eight point-after attempts.

Without any attractive alternatives available, Feely's departure forced the Giants to trade for Tynes, 29, on May 22. Acquiring Tynes from Kansas City only cost the Giants a conditional seventh-round draft choice, but the fourth-year veteran barely beat out unproven Josh Huston in training camp. Huston had all of three months worth of NFL experience with the Bears in 2006 on his résumé entering training camp, and spent most of his collegiate career as a backup kicker at Ohio State to strong-legged Mike Nugent, who was selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Jets.

Still, the 6-1, 202-pound Tynes' troubles so concerned Coughlin once the Giants defeated Philadelphia on Sept. 30, he had to take another look at Huston and former Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff on Oct. 2 in East Rutherford. Huston is inexperienced compared to Cundiff, but Cundiff's inconsistency in Dallas is legendary. He was repeatedly waived and re-signed by then-Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, and is currently a substitute teacher in the Phoenix area.

Neither Huston nor Cundiff impressed Coughlin enough to immediately replace Tynes, but he reiterated recently that Tynes must "do better" if the Giants are to have any legitimate shot at becoming a true threat to current conference front-runners Dallas and Green Bay.

Tynes' inability to cement himself as the Giants' kicker shouldn't surprise anyone, though. Osi Umenyiora's former Troy State teammate missed four field goals from between 30 and 39 yards and made only 14-of-24 from between 40 and 49 yards during his three seasons as the Chiefs' kicker. So when Reese mentioned Tynes' success from 50 yards and out (6-of-9 from 2004-2006) the day the Giants acquired the former NFL Europe and Canadian Football League player, Reese had no choice but to emphasize those successes, if for no other reason than to take attention away from Tynes' failures between 30 and 50 yards.

Those troubles were enough for former Jets coach Herm Edwards to jettison Tynes and draft former UCLA kicker Justin Medlock, who had no NFL experience, yet signed a three-year contract with the Chiefs in July.

After an inconsistent preseason, Medlock missed a 30-yarder late in the Chiefs' season-opening loss against Houston and was promptly replaced by Dave Rayner, who Kansas City signed to a two-year contract on Sept. 11. Rayner was unemployed at the time because he was good on only 26-of-36 attempts for the Packers last season. He has been more reliable this season, but the Chiefs might actually be beset with a more troublesome kicking situation than they would've faced if they had retained Tynes.

The Giants, meanwhile, are undoubtedly worse off after essentially swapping Feely for Tynes. So unless Huston, Cundiff or someone else makes him change kickers, Coughlin can only hope that transaction doesn't cost him and the rest of the Giants much more than that conditional draft pick.

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