Has Coughlin Saved His Job?

After collapsing in the second half of the 2006 season, Tom Coughlin didn't inspire a lot of confidence, but the Giants have gotten off to another good start.

It is more than midway through the NFL season, and the Giants are 7-3 heading into Sunday's home game against the 4-6 Minnesota Vikings.

There are issues, of course. The sudden and potentially catastrophic loss of strong-side linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (broken leg) last week in Detroit will put a strain on the entire defense. The temporary loss of running back Brandon Jacobs (strained hamstring) coupled with the on-going issues of ankle and groin injuries to his backup, Derrick Ward, will impact negatively on the offense.

But the continued emergence of several young players — quarterback Eli Manning, guard Chris Snee, tight end Jeremy Shockey, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, among others — is all good, all positive.

So now the question of the day might be one concerning the head coach.

Has Tom Coughlin done enough to save his job yet?

At the end of last season, with team morale in disarray, with running back Tiki Barber making good on his nearly season-long threat to retire, with others leaving because of injuries, with the general manager, Ernie Accorsi, retiring, with the Giants having jumped out to a 6-2 start and then played dead to the tune of 2-6, it was said that Coughlin was on his way out.

The team management didn't help to dispel that thought when he was offered merely a one-year extension on his contract, presumably because the Giants have always hated "lame duck" head coaches and attempted never to create that situation.

Nothing much was expected of the Giants and it was thought that with the new general manager, Jerry Reese, in charge, it was only a matter of time before he picked his own man and showed Coughlin the door.

Instead, the Giants are winning. They are playing well and with forceful impact. The new defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, has rejuvenated the entire unit and added some of the Philadelphia mystique (he worked there under the guru, Jim Johnson for eight years). A new offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, who was the quarterbacks coach, has taken that unit into the 21st century.

And it's all happening under the guidance of Coughlin, who became the Giants' head coach in 2004. Is he staying? Well, the team would have to lose four or five of its remaining six games for him to go now. At least that is the popular opinion among those who follow the team daily.

He may well have pulled something out of a hat — his own job.


  • SLB Reggie Torbor seems to have gotten the nod from head coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be the replacement for Mathias Kiwanuka, the starter who suffered a fractured fibula last week in Detroit and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after surgery.

  • RB Reuben Droughns will likely start instead of Brandon Jacobs (strained hamstring) and his usual backup, Derrick Ward (ankle, groin). The second back in may well be rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, the seventh round pick, or Patrick Pass, the former Patriot signed last week as a FA.

  • DE Michael Strahan, who had three sacks last week vs. the Lions and now has eight for the season, reflected on the Vikings' possible loss (for a second week in a row) of super rookie RB Adrian Peterson. "Hey, Chester Taylor (his backup) had 160-something yards last week. He's an excellent running back and that is an excellent rushing team."

  • QB Eli Manning, asked if it was easy to root for the rival New York Jets on Thanksgiving (they played Dallas), smiled. "Yes, definitely," he said. "We have a good advantage just to watch games on Thanksgiving. I always root for the home teams and the New York teams."

  • Former Vikings DT Fred Robbins, quicker than his 320 pounds might suggest, will be used in special packages designed to rush the passer on Sunday, the work normally done by Kiwanuka. Robbins had 5.5 sacks last year from the middle and has two so far this season.

  • The Giants were given the day off on Thanksgiving, reducing the possibility of injury and, according to head coach Tom Coughlin, "it was an unexpected day of rest and we might see some of the minor bumps and bruises heal a little faster."

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