Over the next two weeks, Tom Coughlin will garner comparisons to New York Giants coaching legend Bill Parcells but it’s likely he’s never been compared to the Denver Broncos’ philanthropic, second-year quarterback, Tim Tebow. Coughlin has never performed a delicate circumcision in the Philippines like Tebow but he has proved to be a steady hand in difficult times. Unlike Parcells and similar to the "aw shucks" demeanor of Tebow, Coughlin lacks an aura of greatness.
For more than a decade, Coughlin has been doubted. He was doubted when turned the Jacksonville Jaguars into the Doogie Howser of NFL franchises. A majority of Jacksonville fans were against his hiring because he had never served as a coordinator or head coach in the NFL. His only success had come as a position coach and as head coach in the ACC.
In just two seasons, he guided the expansion franchise from birth to the brink of a Super Bowl. In his fifth he led them back with a 14-2 record. By comparison, it took the Houston Texans nine seasons to finally earn their first playoff berth. All Tebow did was rattle off seven straight victories and lead the 1-4 Broncos to an AFC West title.
Likewise, Tebow joined the NFL ranks as a first-round pick with fourth round talent and had none of the characteristics of a successful quarterback. His throwing motion was funkier than a Nappy Roots concert and he was built more like a fullback than a pocket quarterback. He still doesn’t fully understand NFL defenses, struggles from the pocket and has a tendency to create mile high craters with inaccurate throws. Tebow jokes have sprouted everywhere.
However, in the fourth quarter, something inside his cerebral sportex seemed to click. Suddenly, he channeled Joe Montana and led his team to a string of shocking victories in improbable fashion.
The same can be said for Coughlin. Despite being famous for setting his wristwatch five minutes early and fining Giants stars for arriving to meetings "on time", Coughlin’s Giants teams always seem to sit back and wait to pounce in the fourth quarter. Like Tebow, his success is explicable. Against good teams (Patriots) and bad (Dolphins), the Giants rallied back in the fourth quarter all season. Their most impressive was a 12-point fourth comeback against Dallas on Dec. 11 that was the result of two touchdown drives in the final 3:41.
In early January, Tebow delivered a record-setting performance against the Steelers on the heels of an atrocious 2-for-8, 69-yard passing display in a 7-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17. Throughout the week, rumors were rampant of his benching if he struggled in the first half. Meanwhile, Coughlin's teams have been at their greatest when his job is in jeopardy. Coughlin's first Super Bowl came in the final year of his first contract after signing a one-year extension in 2007. His second came with questions swirling about his job security. The Giants responded to an embarassing loss to the Washington Redskins by winning their final two regular season games including a primetime, de facto sudden death matchup with the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football to win the NFC East.
Coughlin is a noted dictator but he’s not a defensive mastermind or an offensive guru. From week to week, Coughlin’s Giants find new ways to win. Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards this season and led the Giants upset of Green Bay last week, however, Coughlin’s defense led the charge against San Francisco.
You either love Coughlin or you hate him. There is no in between. Those words could be spoken for Coughlin, Tebow or the aforementioned Parcells. Soon you could put them both in the same category as two-time Super Bowl winning head coaches. Twenty years ago, Coughlin coached under Parcells on the Giants staff. However, he was never Parcells’ favorite apple on his coaching tree. While Sam Bradford was preferred over Tebow in the 2010 NFL Draft, Coughlin will be staring at Parcells' favorite on the other side of the field on Super Bowl Sunday.
In New York, Coughlin has had Eli. However, in New York, the Tuna had Lawrence Taylor … and he had a young defensive coordinator named Bill Belichick. In Belichick’s second year as defensive coordinator, the Giants won their first Super Bowl in 1986. Another one followed in 1990. When Belichick linked up with Parcells again in New England in 1996. That season, the Patriots beat Coughlin’s Jaguars en route to the Super Bowl. Parcells only experienced marginal success as Cowboys head coach in the 2000s without Belichick.
While Belichick was flaming out in his first head-coaching job with the Cleveland Browns, Coughlin was building a winning organization with the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars without the aid of the football equivalent to Einstein or Nicolas Tesla on his staff.
Tuna managed to turn around the Patriots and Jets with Belichick by his side before faltering as Cowboys head coach. However, Coughlin arrived in New York with a nifty resume of his own. Coughlin is New York’s comeback king. Both he and Tebow studied Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle, Rope-A-Dope strategy against the New York media. Insiders have suspected that square jawed CBS analyst, Bill Cowher coveted the Giants job. The love affair between Cowher and Giants fans was mutual. However, each time, the media and the lynch crowds call for Coughlin's head, and put his back against the ropes his teams bounces back with a flurry of punches.
Tim Tebow is familiar with critics. While Tebow hasn’t fully silenced his, he did knock them down a notch this season. For Coughlin, another Super Bowl win against Parcells' favorite would be the ultimate TKO to his.