The New York Giants have one game left to play, but Tom Coughlin's team is already guaranteed its third consecutive losing season. For the last couple of seasons, rumors about Coughlin losing his job have circulated. This year, they started later than usual, thanks to a subpar NFC East that had the Giants in playoff contention heading into Week 16.
Then Washington's division-clinching win over the Philadelphia Eagles eliminated the Giants from the postseason, and after a crushing defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, the talk has started again. Coughlin's ousting at the end of this season now seems "inevitable," according to the New York Daily News.
While it's not a concrete report that Coughlin will soon be shown the door, it does say that co-owner John Mara went into Sunday night's game unsure about whether he would fire the head coach, and that the 49-17 blowout loss might signal Coughlin's luck running out. Of course, that all hinges on him not retiring first, as it has long been expected.
Why this rumor makes sense
The Giants were embarrassed against the Vikings, and could never quite get over the hump in a division that was up for grabs. Seven of their nine losses this season were one-score games and were there for the taking, most recently against the then-undefeated Carolina Panthers in Week 15. Although the Giants made a valiant effort to come back and tie the game after trailing by 28 points, their defense couldn't hold and they lost on a field goal as time expired.
Sunday's loss was a statement game for the Vikings, who secured a playoff berth with the win. But it should have been one for the Giants, even if they were only playing for pride at that point. If the game was a test to see how they responded to playoff elimination and to a week that was dominated by headlines about Odell Beckham Jr.'s one-game suspension, then the Giants failed.
This marks the fourth consecutive season the Giants have missed the playoffs. They have made just one trip to the postseason in the past seven years, and although they won the Super Bowl that time, Coughlin's teams have clearly underperformed in the other seasons.
Why this rumor does not make sense
Coughlin can't be blamed for Eli Manning, one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, throwing three interceptions in the game that Beckham had to serve a suspension. Beckham and Manning are the two best players on the team, but Manning struggled without him against the Vikings. But that doesn't explain bad losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys or the Philadelphia Eagles this year, all games in which Manning and Beckham played.
Then you have the standard Coughlin defense: he's a winning coach and he has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories. His record is getting closer to .500 (170-149 in the regular season), but Super Bowl XLVI in 2011 was not that long ago. He is four seasons removed from that victory, and eight seasons removed from winning a Lombardi Trophy in 2007.
The team was also hit hard by injuries this year, losing several starting safeties before the regular season even began. General manager Jerry Reese is in charge of keeping the roster stocked with talented players, but it wouldn't be an unreasonable argument to suggest he has failed just as badly as Coughlin. Reese should not be exempt from blame.
Likeliness overall: 9/10
It's seemed like "the year this will actually happen" for a couple of years now, and the lifeless loss on SNF was inexcusable.
"That'll all take care of itself," Coughlin said, his normal response to questions about his job. "I don't coach worrying about that."
But Coughlin will be 70 years old when next season gets underway and it seems like the Giants are ready to move on from him, one way or the other. Coughlin electing to retire is probably more likely than him getting fired -- many have been expecting him to hang it up ever since the 2011 Super Bowl victory. Odds are the Giants will be searching for a new coach in January.
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