Tom Coughlin is going to get another chance to make the New York Giants a champion again.
Giants co-owner John Mara told the 67-year-old Coughlin on Monday morning that he wants him to return for an 11th season with the team that he led to Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012 despite a disappointing 7-9 record.
It marked the fourth time in five years that the Giants have missed the postseason, but this might have been one of Coughlin’s better coaching jobs. He held together an injury-plagued team that lost its first six games and won seven of the final 10, closing the season with a 20-6 victory over Washington.
”Do we have unfinished business? Yes!” Coughlin said Monday. ”We have a lot of unfinished business. We’d like to get to the winner’s circle again. That’s what this thing is all about. Do you think I’m disappointed? Yes, I’m disappointed.”
There are some issues that have to be finalized later this week when Mara and Coughlin sit down with co-owner Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. Coughlin, whose contract will expire next season, may get an extension so he does not enter next season as a lame-duck coach.
There is also going to be an evaluation of the season and a frank discussion about the coaching staff. The offense and special teams struggled, so those coordinators – Kevin Gilbride and Tom Quinn – will be on the hot seat, as will quarterback coach Sean Ryan in the wake of Eli Manning’s dismal season that featured a career-high 27 interceptions.
”I have great confidence in this group of men that we’ve had here as a coaching staff,” Coughlin said, ”and I believe in them very strongly.”
However, expect changes. Mara and Reese were both very disappointed with the season that Mara said was as disappointing as any in his memory. He had told reporters before the season that this might have been one of the most talented rosters the Giants have had.
”Nobody is happy being 7-9,” Mara said. ”Our fans deserve better. With that, we’ll do everything.”
Injuries hurt the Giants. Twelve players finished on injured reserve, not counting defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who missed the final five games with a shoulder injury, and Victor Cruz, who was out the last two with a knee injury. Center David Baas, guard Chris Snee, halfback David Wilson, safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Corey Webster – all starters when training camp opened – were lost to injuries.
The injuries to the offensive line affected the running game and allowed defenses to put Manning under pressure all season. He finally succumbed to it in the final game, spraining his left ankle and missing the second half.
Fixing the offensive line is a must. First-round draft pick Justin Pugh had a solid first season at right tackle. Left tackle Will Beatty is a concern because he broke a leg Sunday.
Reese believes he will be ready for next season. Guard-center Kevin Boothe, who started all 16 games, is a free agent. Snee and David Diehl may retire, and backup Jim Cordle is a restricted free agent coming off knee surgery.
Jerrel Jernigan emerged in Cruz’s absence and Rueben Randle showed flashes in his second season. Hakeem Nicks is a free agent who had a bad season.
Tight end Brandon Myers was inconsistent, so the Giants may void his contract to save salary cap room.
Wilson suffered a neck injury in the first half of the season and his status for next season is uncertain. Doctors are hopeful the injury isn’t career-ending.
Even with a sub-par Pierre-Paul, the defense was the strength of the Giants. It finished eighth overall, making major improvements with the run defense with the addition of Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and rookie Johnathan Hankins in the middle.
The Giants have 23 unrestricted free agents, with the most significant being defensive end Justin Tuck, middle linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and placekicker Josh Brown.
Finally healthy, Tuck had his best season in years with 11 sacks. Beason solidified the defense after being acquired in a trade with Carolina.
”I really don’t think that we are that far off,” Tuck said of the Giants’ future.
The Giants need another cornerback to play opposite Prince Amukamara, while the safety situation is solid with Antrel Rolle, who had a career high six interceptions, and Will Hill back.
Reese said the blame for the past season can be shared. He didn’t provide the right personnel. The draft wasn’t good enough. The team and the quarterback didn’t play well enough, and they had no chance after losing their first six.
”We want to be a team that goes in every year and has a chance to win the tournament,” Reese said. ”The last couple of years we haven’t been able to do that and that bothers me.