Commentary

Big Blue isn't the Bombers? Why not?

Mara says Coughlin stays since the Giants aren't the Yankees. Maybe they should be

Updated: January 4, 2011, 3:31 AM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

John Mara says he's not firing Tom Coughlin because he's the owner of the New York Giants, not the New York Yankees.

"We don't do that here," says the son of Wellington Mara. "He's going to be our coach."

Like his father before him, John Mara's only job is collecting money from New York football fans. All his father did and all he does now is set ticket prices and wait for the checks to roll in.

In return, this is what he gives you: the same old excuses. The same old lack of accountability and absence of consequences. Worst of all, the same old coach.

John Mara
AP Photo/Bill KostrounJohn Mara says he won't fire Tom Coughlin despite another late-season collapse. Why would Giants fans let him get away with that?

But when you've got a multibillion-dollar TV contract to draw from every year, a guaranteed profit margin, built-in curbs to safeguard you from yourself and a fanatically devoted fan base that seems willing to put up with repeated levels of mediocrity and all manner of excuses, you can afford to go about your business as if winning is a bonus, not a requirement.

The Giants are not the Yankees? Well, why not? And since when was being like the Yankees such a bad thing, anyway?

The Giants should be more like the Yankees. So should the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. Winning should be the focus for all of them, and the pressure to perform should be on everyone on all their payrolls, all the time.

But Tom Coughlin is coming back. As a lifelong Giants fan, I am outraged. And I think you should be, too.

Tickets are not cheap around here and with the onerous "innovation" of the PSL, the worst investment since Enron stock, NFL tickets are among the most obscenely priced of all. Plus, with the all-day commitment of getting into and out of the Meadowlands, fighting hellish traffic both ways, and toughing out the often miserable November and December weather in this town, football probably asks more of its fan base than any other sport.

In return, in gratitude, this is what John Mara gives you: We're not the Yankees. Don't expect anyone to pay for what happened to us this season.

With the exception of you, of course.

I know this is a tough argument to make, because of all the teams in this town, the Giants seem to have the most loyal fan base -- and I'm afraid to say, lenient media corps -- in town.

Even some members of the Yankees' front office that I spoke to Monday indulged in justifications and excuses for the Giants keeping Coughlin. That's how much passion this team seems to inspire in its fans.

"Well, I didn't expect much from them this year, anyway," said one of them, who had clearly inhaled the party line the way Rex Ryan inhales a postgame buffet.

But if you took the entire Giants 2010 season from beginning to end, from its shaky 1-2 start to its high point, the 41-7 win over the Seahawks on Nov. 7 that had a lot of people believing the Giants were among the best teams in football, to their shameful collapse over the final month of the season, and changed the name "Giants" to "Yankees," and the name "Coughlin" to "Girardi," how do you think the story would have ended?

How do you think it would have gone over, with the fans, the media and ownership, if the Yankees dogged it the way Giants did against the Cowboys the following week, or blew one the way the Giants blew the next one to the Eagles?

What do you think would have been said or written if the Yankees had done the equivalent of the second loss to the Eagles, the one at home, the one the Giants were leading, 24-3, at halftime only to lose, 38-31, on an onside kick with eight minutes to play and a punt return on the last play of the game?

And then, followed that up with a rollover like the one the Giants executed the following weekend against Green Bay?

Do you think anyone would have been patting them on the back and muttering "nice try" after some meaningless win in the season finale? Heck no. That pat on the back would have had a knife in it.

Which brings us to Coughlin, the coach whose accidental victory in the Super Bowl three years ago apparently keeps him in his job today. (Never mind that David Tyree, the man who actually won him that game, and Tiki Barber, who saved Coughlin's job the year before by running the Giants into the playoffs in the final game of the 2006 season, are long gone).

Coughlin will never be confused with Vince Lombardi or Tony Dungy or Tom Landry or even Bill Belichick. He is not renowned as a defensive genius or an offensive innovator.

What he is, basically, is a guy who yells at his players. A lot.

And sadly, it doesn't seem to be working.

For a coach whose forte is supposedly discipline, his team plays shockingly undisciplined football, and if you believe, as I do, that the true test of discipline comes only in times of adversity, then the way the Giants quit against Green Bay the day after Christmas settles that argument. There's nothing more pathetic than "disciplinarian" parents whose kids turn out to be unruly, characterless brats.

That's what coach Coughlin's Giants looked like that week.

And as for Coughlin's other "strength" -- his meticulous attention to detail -- where was it as the Eagles, needing a miracle to win, achieved it by sneaking over an onside kick with 1:18 left in the game? It's kind of sad when a coach who insists his players be five minutes early for every meeting is late himself at the moment of truth in a key game.

But his worst moment of all came at the end of that one, when after Matt Dodge's punt sailed straight to DeSean Jackson and turned into the game-winning punt return, coach Coughlin, the disciplinarian, lost control of himself and humiliated his rookie kicker on the field in full view of the fans and the huge television audience.

Aside from being utterly unprofessional, it was the ultimate CYA move, a gesture designed solely to let everyone in the place know that it wasn't Tom Coughlin's fault, it was the kid punter's.

Can you imagine Joe Girardi doing that on the field to a player who missed a sign or made an error that cost the Yankees a game?

That is not leadership. That is not character. It certainly is not discipline.

It is more like the act of a coach who is desperate, who knows he is in trouble, or should be, and whose players secretly or not-so-secretly despise him.

This is the man the Giants choose to keep as their head coach after a crash and burn of a season that would have cost most coaches or managers their jobs.

Not here, though. These are John Mara's Giants. Not George Steinbrenner's Yankees. The owner himself told you so.

"We don't do that here," John Mara says.

If you are fan of the New York Giants, there can be only one response.

Why not?

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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