Coughlin fires back at Barber over public criticism

Updated: February 23, 2007, 5:04 PM ET
Assocaited Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Coughlin has one regret about Tiki Barber: that he couldn't convince the New York Giants running back to keep his opinions out of the public spotlight.

On Friday, the New York Giants coach told reporters during the NFL's annual scouting combine he wished Barber hadn't used the media to voice his strong opinions and wasn't sure why Barber blamed the coaching staff for pushing him into retirement.

Barber's latest comments came during a news conference when he was hired by NBC.

"I do not know what this is all about," Coughlin said. "I was under the impression he was having a press conference to announce his new role with NBC, and then to find out that he turned around and talked about something like this ... I think to give the illusion that I had something to do with his retirement, I don't quite follow that."

Barber, who retired after last season and will now work on the "Today" show and Sunday Night Football broadcasts, criticized Coughlin recently for not giving him enough rest during the practice week. He said there were days he couldn't move and that Coughlin was upset he could only go half-speed, which forced him into what some considered an early retirement.

It wasn't the first time Barber caused a stir.

Barber announced his pending retirement at midseason, a distraction that hovered over the Giants the rest of the year.

After a playoff loss in 2005, Barber also criticized the Giants' playcalling, and tight end Jeremy Shockey joined the chorus last season when he didn't think coaches were calling his number enough.

Coughlin wants to create a new environment this year.

"Something that I've tried to do in our locker room is convince people that these types of matters don't have to go outside of the team," Coughlin said. "They stay within, they can be handled within. They don't have to be addressed through the media."

Coughlin may have unintentionally fell into the same trap.

When asked about Eli Manning's struggles late last season, Coughlin said he couldn't explain it and that he expects his franchise quarterback to perform better next season.

"In our postseason discussions with Eli, consistency became an issue," he said. "He did improve his passing percentage a little bit higher but not to where we think he can be. One of the issues that I had was the inconsistency issue, and the fact the our offensive team, quite frankly, didn't score enough points."

Coughlin followed that by praising Manning's work ethic and said he was confident Manning would improve in his fourth season with the Giants.

"We definitely feel like he is still the quarterback of the future for the New York Giants," he said. "He can win the Super Bowl."

It was clear that Coughlin was more upset with how Barber voiced his opinions, by talking to the media rather than the coaches themselves.

"My position is that a team is like a family and if someone has something they would like to discuss, they're more than welcome to come to my office, sit down, across from me and discuss it," Coughlin said. "My one regret, I would say, is not being able to convince Tiki."

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