EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — The Tom Coughlin era in New York is over.
The 69-year-old head coach met with Giants co-owners Steve Tisch and John Mara on Monday afternoon, and informed them that he is stepping down as the team’s head coach.
“I met with John Mara and Steve Tisch this afternoon, and I informed them that it is in the best interest of the organization that I step down as head coach,” Coughlin said in a statement released by the team.
Coughlin, who served three years as an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Bill Parcells in addition to his 12 seasons as the head coach, was part of three Super Bowl championships, two of which came in a span of five years in his tenure as head coach.
Since winning his last championship in 2011, Coughlin’s teams have deteriorated, largely due to injuries and some personnel decisions that haven’t panned out, particularly in the second and third rounds of the last several drafts.
Still, ever the loyal employee, Coughlin, who finished his Giants career with a 102-90 record in the regular season and 8-3 in the postseason, conducted himself with class. He never pointed fingers and was as quick to put the blame on himself when the Giants lost as he was in pushing the blame away from him and to the players when they won.
“Obviously, the past three years have not been what any of us expect, and as head coach, I accept the responsibility for those seasons,” he said.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as head coach of the New York Football Giants. This is a not a sad occasion for me. I have spent 15 years with this organization as an assistant and head coach and was fortunate to be part of three Super Bowl winning teams. A Lombardi Trophy every five years is an achievement in which we all take great pride.”
Even as things started to deteriorate, Coughlin, whose 12 years makes him the second longest tenured head coach in franchise history behind Steve Owen (1930-53), continued to hold his players to high standards from everything to how they dressed on the field to what they wore to away games. He famously instituted “Coughlin Time” around the facility, a practice in which clocks are set five minutes ahead so that players and staff were in their seats early and ready to go for meetings.
“I think it has been evident these last 12 years here how much pride I take in representing this franchise. I am gratified and proud that we were able to deliver two more Lombardi trophies to the display case in our lobby during that time. That is a tribute to our players and staff, and it was truly fulfilling to be the leader of those teams.”
According to a source familiar with the coach’s thinking, he is not yet ready to retire from football despite the grueling toll that the losing had on him. The source said that Coughlin has not ruled out accepting a new position if one should become available that was right for him.
“I appreciate the support of John and his family and Steve and his family, and of Jerry Reese and his staff,” Coughlin said. “I think our organization is a great representation of what I mean when I talk about ‘team’.”
Coughlin was hired in January 2004 by then owners Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, the fathers of John and Steve, respectively.
“It is difficult to come up with words adequate to describe the appreciation we have for everything Tom Coughlin has done for our franchise,” Mara said in a statement released by the team. “In addition to delivering two Super Bowl titles, Tom represented us with class and dignity, and restored the pride to our entire organization. He has all the qualities you could ever ask for in a head coach, and set very high standards for whoever will succeed him.”
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. only worked with Coughlin for two seasons, and although Beckham is still at an age where Coughlin’s old-school ways might rub some the wrong way, the receiver had nothing but good things to say about the veteran head coach.
“It’s been great since the day I met him,” Beckham said. “Initially a younger player would immaturely think, ‘Coach is always on you. He’s always on you, he’s always you… why is he always on you?’
“Initially I thought it’s because he wanted to be. It was growing up, maturing, and learning that it was because he knew what was in you, he wanted to bring the best out, and he was going to do everything that he could to do that.
Beckham, who said that Coughlin “will always be my coach,” admitted before Coughlin’s announcement that it would be a challenge to start over with a new coach.
“It would be difficult. It’s something that you’re used to-you come in here every day it’s the same people. It would take time to readjust,” he admitted.