That one little word tells you all you need to know about the New York Giants’ 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks this week, their second such shutout of the season.
Rather than recap the pathetic performance in any kind of detail, there is a bigger, more pathetic story that needs to be told.
Head coach Tom Coughlin, who has forever endeared himself to the Giants’ fans after coaching this team to two Super Bowls, appears to have lost this team.
In retrospect, the signs have probably been there all along, starting with the lackluster preseason effort, right through to the 0-6 start.
However, people had faith that the Giants would make it right again, and for a while, they did—against teams that, in retrospect, were worse off than they were at the time.
Rather than throw up his hands in disgust and walk away, Coughlin, the 67-year-old spark plug whom you somehow might feel comfortable taking with you for protection into a dark alleyway, wasn’t ready to declare the season over until the clock in the final game stood at zero.
And so, despite having nothing to play for other than pride—and it’s been noted before that, had this team actually played for pride when it counted, things might have very well have been different—Coughlin’s team simply fractured.
“I expected a great effort this week,” Coughlin said. “I think defensively, and with our special teams, we got it. Offensively, we did not—there’s no way to sugarcoat it. A pathetic offensive performance—we didn’t block anybody, we didn’t make any plays, we didn’t create any opportunities for ourselves.”
It’s what he said next that is, well, most pathetic.
“I told the players who prepared and gave great effort that I appreciated what they did,” he said. “And I told those that were obvious they had not, that I felt sorry for them because they’re missing the whole point.”
Coughlin had wanted—no, expected—his players to share in his excitement for and passion of playing football. And why shouldn’t he? Teams only get 16 chances a year to make it count for something—more if they take advantage of their opportunities.
So why not put your best foot forward and get excited for something that happens just once a week over the span of only four months?
Because the carrot that was the playoffs disappeared from the end of the string, Coughlin’s enthusiasm and excitement were as well received by some as the valiant efforts of the band of the RMS Titanic before the ship sank.
Fresh off the heels of the knockout punch administered last week by the San Diego Chargers, Coughlin got a lackluster effort this week from some offensive linemen who clearly mailed it in on their preparation.
He had some receivers who were clearly more interested in fighting for big free agency money than they were fighting for the ball.
And he got a half-baked effort from others who are probably disappointed that the Super Bowl countdown clock hadn’t been taken down in the locker room because now they don’t have a reminder of how many days remain until their contracts expire or void.
What’s even more concerning about the status of this Giants team is that Coughlin, their meticulous head coach who is supposed to have his finger on the pulse of the team, never even saw this latest disaster coming.
“The meeting was intense; it was good, positive. I really had no indication,” he said. “[I’m] not taking anything away from their defense. They’re number one in the league for a reason. They’re a good defensive team, but that’s no excuse for what went on out there.”
It’s not so much about control—to suggest that a head coach must or should “control” his team would be a derogatory statement. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the leadership in that locker room is sorely lacking, a deficiency that starts with the head coach.
I’ve long been a staunch defender of Coughlin, for whom I still have a great deal of respect, given the task he took on when he came in here. I won’t forget the two magical Super Bowl weeks or the excitement of the games that led to those two defining moments in time.
I also admire how he changed his ways to better connect with his players and, to a certain extent, the media.
However, it’s time to stop clinging to the past glory, because to do so is, well, pathetic. To hold out hope that Coughlin is going to right the ship because he’s done it before is like hoping to win the lottery again after you’ve already won it twice before.
Coughlin’s numbers haven’t been coming up for him. While he deserves credit for trying every possible combination to get this team going in the right direction, it might just be time to contemplate going in another direction with a staff bearing fresh ideas that can be more competitive with these new trends that are popping up in the NFL on an annual basis.
It’s time to break free of the handcuffs that are disguised as gratitude and move ahead, knowing that you’ve repaid Coughlin time and again with handsome contracts that should secure his family’s well-being for a long, long time.
For ownership to let loyalty bind this team to a man who, despite coming in here and restoring the lost pride in the football operations, has had teams that have historically not done well in the second half of the season, and whose teams—both players and coaches—have repeated the same mistakes, would just be pathetic.