Tom Coughlin talks Super Bowl memories, ‘painful’ Giants exit

Two-time Super Bowl champion former Giants coach Tom, Coughlin takes a timeout for some Super Bowl Sunday Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: What will you be doing on this Super Bowl Sunday, 15 years after Super Bowl XLII in Arizona?

A: I don’t have anything special planned. I’ll either watch the game with my family that’s right here, or if I just want to kinda isolate myself and watch it, I’ll watch it at home [Atlantic Beach, Fla.].

Q: Do you remember your farewell press conference when Eli Manning started tearing up?

A: Well, that whole group in the front row was that way. I appreciated that very much, that they would think that much of me to be there, and they wore their emotions on their coat sleeves that day.

Q: How close did you come to coaching again after the Giants?

A: I think relatively close, but nothing ever materialized.

Q: Is there any doubt that Eli Manning is a Hall of Famer?

A: Not for me there isn’t. Not at all. You couldn’t find a better big-game quarterback than Eli.

Q: If Eli were coming out when you turned down the Giants for Boston College in 1993, if you knew you had a chance to draft him, do you think you might have coached the Giants back then?

A: I probably wouldn’t have studied him yet back then, but it certainly would have been a strong consideration.

Super Bowl
Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin after winning the Super Bowl in 2008.

Q: After the 2006 season, were you worried that you might get fired?

A: I didn’t have the same feeling that everyone around me did, I guess. But it did appear to me that there was some serious consideration.

Q: What did you have to say to convince them to stay?

A: I sat and talked with John Mara and Jon Tisch, and again explained what I thought about the future and where the Giant team was and where we were going.

Q: There was concern about whether Eli was the franchise quarterback at that point, right?

A: Well, Eli won 11 games the second year in the league. We’re talking about ’06 and ’07, sometimes I didn’t know if we had enough players to even dress 45, so it was one of those years for sure.

Q: When did Eli actually take the leadership role?

A: I won’t say he was there when he first arrived, he was trying to learn how to be a quarterback. And I do make sure people understand one thing about the quarterback position: I was there with Phil Simms. And Phil Simms was as highly regarded as any quarterback in the National Football League, in my opinion. And his ability was no doubt, You remember in ’90 we were 10-0, for god’s sakes, before he got hurt. Quarterbacks got too much to do to be … stick a mic in his face every second and expect ’em to have some drawn-out explanation for everything. So I think the fact that they work hard, they lead by example, nobody’s in the office any earlier than the quarterback is, and the way that Eli conducted himself in terms of his locker-room demeanor, having fun with his fellow players, and they’d bust his chops, he busted them. I think he asserted himself as he went along, and those were the factors of leadership which he put out there for everybody.

Q: When you think about Eli, which playoff game resonates the most with you?

A: Wow. We were road warriors in ’07 and ’08. The ride starting with that 17th week game against New England that was 15-0, starting right there and moving right through. You remember he goes to Green Bay and throws the ball like it’s 75 degrees, and it’s minus-24 wind chill. So that one sticks out. The other one that no doubt sticks out that I’ve heard, from Parcells included, from lots of guys in the coaching profession that I admire and respect, that San Francisco playoff game where the two offensive and defensive lines were the dominant factors in the game, and Eli took a physical beating and still hung in there, and we won the game.

Tom Coughlin after the Giants won the 2012 Super Bowl.
CSM /Landov

Q: You attended Eli’s “once a Giant … only a Giant” retirement press conference.

A: His words were very eloquent, very well-spoken, very emotional. His mom and dad, everybody was there, it was a wonderful thing as you well know. And he went out as a true champion. His manner, his demeanor, his leadership skills, his personality, his sense of humor, all those things were rolled into one and finally recognized I think by everyone, media included, and the idea of “once a Giant, always a Giant,” there’s no doubt about that with Eli.

Q: Have you been on the “ManningCast”?

A: No, no.

Q: Would you want to?

A: They keep using my face, I’m gonna ask for royalties — the face of the minus-24 degrees, they keep using that when they want to compare people and their look. I’m gonna ask ’em for royalties.

Q: Have you ever been colder in your life?

A: You know what? I wasn’t cold in the second half. I don’t know what happened under those circumstances. … I remember one time when I was the Jaguar coach, being in Cincinnati, and it was snowing and blowing and it was late on the year in December, that was a pretty cold day there, too.

Q: Did your wife Judy express concern about the way your face looked?

A: (Laugh) No, she was never worried about that.

Q: What are your thoughts on Daniel Jones?

A: I like Daniel. Watching his progress this year, I think Brian Daboll’s done a nice job … an outstanding job … and I think that Daniel — with all the ingredients that he had, in that he’s very intelligent, he’s a very good runner, a very good passer. I don’t think he’s gonna run unless he is given the one or two opportunities in the course of a game or pulls it down and run, and the most dangerous are those that are intending to throw, but you take it away or do something that allows them to run, they run, and he can do that.

Q: Do you think he’s the heir apparent to Eli?

A: I think he’s a very, very good football player and I wish him well.

Daniel Jones throws a pass during the Giants’ playoff loss to the Eagles this season.
for the NY POST

Q: How would Aaron Rodgers fit in New York, do you think?

A: (Laugh) I think Aaron Rodgers would fit anywhere, with his ability range. He’s an outstanding, no doubt, quarterback.

Q: Which was a better catch, the David Tyree Helmet Catch or the Odell Beckham Jr. catch?

A: Tyree. … Because the timing of it was essential, and people look at that, and I lock horns with people who think that was a lucky catch, that was a great catch. And his wherewithal after one arm being ripped away to pin that ball to his helmet and then fall with Rodney Harrison across the back of his knee and still hang on to the ball? It’s the greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl.

Q: Why didn’t Odell last in New York?

A: I’m not gonna touch that one. I have no idea.

Q: When you look back on his brawl with Josh Norman, what do you think about?

A: I gave the league every idea about what would happen in that game between Norman and the way he would come after, and the very first play of the game, he hits Beckham in the back of the head. That’s where that started. But there was a lot to do with that prior to, and I told the league what would happen. The referees and the officials stood there while a member of the Carolina team took a baseball bat and walked up and down our team while we were stretching pregame, and still nothing was done. That didn’t have to happen.

Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. get into it in 2015.
Paul J. Bereswill

Q: Which one of the Super Bowls that you were a part of as a New York Giant was the sweetest?

A: (Chuckle) Each one of them when the gun went off at the end.

Q: Which was the most touching or emotional postgame locker room?

A: Most people are unaware of the fact that as the head coach of the winning team, you don’t get back to that locker room for about 45 minutes after the game, because you have all these media responsibilities. I can remember in the ’07-08 game, I got back really late, and I peeked in the locker room, and it was the moment where Peyton and Eli were kind of shoulder to shoulder, and I’m sure that Peyton was telling Eli what an outstanding game he had played, congratulating Eli on his Super Bowl MVP.

Q: When you drafted son-in-law Chris Snee in 2004, did you ask for Judy’s feedback on that?

A: Yeah. … She said yeah, it’s a resounding yeah (laugh). If she had been in the draft room, she’da picked him … probably in the first round.

Q: Whatever comes to mind: Patrick Mahomes.

A: Outstanding young quarterback that does a good job of buying time through his athleticism. He doesn’t really want to run, but he will run to create more opportunities down the field. Just incredible the fact that he’s been in so many championship games at this early stage of his career.

Patrick Mahomes
Getty Images

Q: Do you think he has any chance to chase down Tom Brady’s seven rings?

A: That is a lofty goal. I think he certainly has enough time career-wise to do that, provided he can stay away from injury, but I don’t know if I can answer that one. He’s talented, Andy Reid continues to provide him with talent, he’s got one of the great receiving tight ends [Travis Kelce] in the history of the league and got outstanding speed down the field. Brady set something that … he’d probably be the first one to tell ya … records are made to be broken, but that’s a lofty goal.

Q: Who do you like in this game?

A: I’m not gonna go one way or the other on that. Just like everybody else, I want a great game. I want a really good, competitive, fourth-quarter-win football game. I really don’t know the people from Philadelphia. Andy Reid’s a very good friend of mine, I always wish Andy well. It’ll be a heckuva game.

Q: What makes Andy Reid a Hall of Fame coach?

A: He’s always been an outstanding offensive coach. He’s always been an exceptional game-plan coach. He’s a guy that obviously had great opportunities as a young man, especially in Green Bay, coaching in Green Bay. He surrounds himself with good people. He is himself a very good man. Whether it’s him or whether it’s the personnel people that he’s working with, they’re on the same page obviously.

Q: When Andy had his tragedies, did Judy reach out to his wife?

A: I think she did, and I reached out to Andy when he was in Philadelphia.

Andy Reid and Tom Coughlin in 2012.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Do you remember what you told him?

A: I sent my condolences, and obviously he and his family would be primary in our thoughts and prayers.

Q: What made Tom Coughlin a Hall of Fame coach?

A: I hope it’s the way in which I conducted myself … the fact that when I took over the Jacksonville Jaguars, this was an expansion team, and in the first five years we were in the AFC Championship game twice. It was an opportunity to put people together from all walks of life in football and start from scratch, and I certainly enjoyed the challenge of that, the historical challenge was very meaningful to me. My experiences as a head coach at Boston College, and working for Bill Parcells with the Giants and Super Bowl 1990 had a tremendous impact on me. And despite slow ups and downs, obviously ’07 and ’08, and ’11 and ’12 were pretty good years for us in New York.

Q: Who will be your presenter in Canton?

A: (Chuckle) I don’t think that far ahead. It would be a tremendous honor, but I don’t even know how that mechanism works. I was there last year for Tony Boselli and for Dick Vermeil, and I enjoyed that opportunity. I was there for [Michael] Strahan and Bill Parcells, when he got in. I extended my congratulations and they all spoke so highly of the honor. It’s something that you don’t even think about as a young coach because you think it’s too far out of reach. All of a sudden you have a couple of things happen in your life again … You just gotta shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, I’d be greatly honored,” but I don’t even know how it works.

Q: What was Parcells’ most memorable motivational ploy?

A: Oh, he was great with people individually. Bill was tough this, tough that, he’d have nicknames for players. He had his way. … He was a guy that would be sitting in the locker room at 7 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday morning. … There used to be some chairs around the old Giants Stadium locker room, and he’d be sitting in a chair, have a cup of coffee and as the players came in, they’d come over and sit down with him and shoot the bull about maybe even not about the game. He was an original, he was unique in a lot of the things that he did. Some nights, even on a Saturday night, he would tell the team that, “We’re ready to go. I don’t really need to speak any further to you.” He did things in a unique way, but he carved a path because it was the Giant organization of Wellington Mara, it was George Young and Bill Parcells and the continuity factor was big with them, and I always appreciated that.

Q: How would you sum up Wellington Mara as a man?

A: I thought he was an eloquent, distinguished, unselfish leader who really did think more about — he loved the Giant organization, don’t get me wrong — but he thought about the league. What I remember from way back was Dan Rooney and Wellington Mara were the greatest spokesmen for the National Football League you could ever come up with.

Q: What made Michael Strahan such a great leader?

A: At that point in time, for me when I came along, he had been in the league a long time, very intelligent, very eloquent guy. People just clung to him. They sought him out. The thing about Michael was Michael was a guy that could dish it out in the locker room, but he could take it, too. His work habits were second to none. The way he practiced was a great example for all young players coming into the league, and when he spoke, people listened.

Former Giants Michael Strahan, Antonio Pierce, Tom Coughlin, Jeff Feagles, and Shaun O’Hara pose for a photo as the Giants honor the 10 year anniversary of the 2007 Super Bowl.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: How do you feel about the Eagles going for their second Super Bowl championship?

A: Well, they’re obviously an outstanding team. I really don’t know the head coach [Nick Sirianni]. I admire their makeup, their roster, they play well on both sides of the ball, they’re physically tough because their ability to rush the ball and defend. I acknowledge all of those things. Of course, the Eagles are not my favorite team, being an NFC East guy.

Q: What are you most proud of about your new book “A Giant Win”?

A: It’s an excellent, excellent detailed description of Super Bowl XLII, the details about the personalities and members of our team, etcetera, etcetera, and it’s combined with other stories of interest, I think. And It was written very well and it reads very well.

Q: What will you be thinking about 15 years after Super Bowl XLII?

A: Well, you know that my two favorite cities in the country are Glendale [Ariz.] and Indianapolis [site of Super Bowl XLVI]. I’ll be thinking about our Super Bowl game, our Saturday night meeting, Sunday morning about 8 o’clock in the morning that a door — and I think Judy must have let ’em in — the door opened and about four of my little grandkids come running in and climbing up on my lap, and my granddaughter starts coloring on my game-plan sheet. So I’ll remember that, and I’ll remember the whole occasion, the idea that we didn’t even know if Plaxico [Burress, MCL sprain] would play. And then the game itself, and all the pageantry and all the wonderful elements of the game which make it feel surreal as you run out on the field and you’ve got all the glitter and all that stuff. … After the game, same way. Just a wonderful experience for the gun to go off and you to be on the winning end, especially when you’re playing a team that’s 18-0 and the greatest offensive machine in the history of tue National Football League.

Q: What do you hope New York Giants fans say about you?

A: Firm, fair, honest, demanding, I hope.

Q: That’s probably what you hope your players say about you, right?

A: I think they do. I always cared greatly for them, and I think they do know that I do love them. And I enjoy every minute that, you know, Strahan will text me, Eli’ll text me, last time I was in New York, Chris Snee arranged five or six of us to have dinner together. It’s wonderful to see my guys again and to spend time with ’em anywhere.

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin speaking during a press conference talking about his resignation in 2016.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: What did it mean to you to be the Super Bowl-winning head coach of the New York Football Giants?

A: It meant everything to me. I’m a New York kid, I was born and raised in Waterloo, New York, the black-and-white TV, all I ever saw were the Giants and the Browns. Thinking that I would ever have a chance to be there, and then be there with Wellington Mara as the owner, then the second time around with Bob Tisch there … incredible memories, and I was very honored and very thrilled and very humbled to be a head coach of the New York Giants.

Q: Any regrets? Other than doing this interview, any regrets?

A: (Laugh) I regret the fact that I didn’t coach in New York for another five years (laugh).

Q: Why do you regret that?

A: I loved the position that I was in. Given the circumstances, we were trying to win games the best we could, that’s all. Would have been nice to finish there.

Q: How much did it hurt when you were not allowed to finish there?

A: Oh, it hurts a lot, you kiddin’ me? It’s very, very painful. There’s a lot of pride at stake. It’s happened to me before and I didn’t like it, and I don’t like anything about it. It’s reality, so you move on.

Q: What made Judy a Hall of Fame wife?

A: She did everything, and she did it well, and she did it behind the scenes. And she allowed me to focus on my career without literally any distraction. She ran the house. She paid the bills. She raised our four children. She did it all, and she did it with poise, with elegance. … She was just an incredible supporter of me and of course our family. Her personality, her smile, was so always there, even in the darkest hours, her smile was there, and people rallied to her because of that. She was kind, she was someone who could make you feel like you were the most important person in the room. There was no rush with Judy. I couldn’t get her to move fast. If she was talking to someone, she was going to finish her conversation before she moved on. She was a tremendous supporter, she was a competitor of her own, she was tough on gameday. People talk about her in the box wanting to be isolated from the rest of the crowd so she could focus on the game. She was the ideal head coach’s wife. At her funeral [in 2022], Andy and Tammy Reid came and Tammy Reid told me that the reason that she wanted to come and had to come, because Judy had helped Tammy understand what it was like to be a head football coach’s wife.

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