“It's been an honor and a privilege for me to be the 16th head coach of the New York Giants,” Coughlin said to the gathering of his family, coaching staff, current and former players, media, and members of the Giants organization. “You only dream about it as a kid. There's no way it can possibly happen. I'm from a little town, Waterloo, New York, up the way here, five thousand people, black and white television when I was a kid, watching the Giants and the Browns. That's about the only two teams we could get.
“So for me to stand here as the 16th head coach of the Giants, at the conclusion of a 12-year term, it's quite an awesome experience to say the least.”
It’s the end of an era for Big Blue, and president John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese were there to talk about Coughlin’s legacy as well as the future of the organization.
Here are five things we learned from a monumental day in Giants history:
1. COUGHLIN LEAVES HALL OF FAME SHOES TO FILL
Four Lombardi Trophies stand in a display case on the other side of the wall where the auditorium is situated at the team facility. Three of them bear Coughlin’s name. After winning Super Bowl XXV as Bill Parcells’ wide receivers coach, Coughlin led the Giants to victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI when he was at the helm.
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“I think back over the last 12 years how many times people had him dead and buried and fired, including a lot of the people in this room,” Mara said. “I'm very thankful that he was able to persevere, that we were all able to persevere through that and go through the 12 years we had, all the success we had, all the professionalism he brought to this organization. I just can't think of anybody who could have done a better job. He walks out the door with his head held high. We're very grateful for everything that he's done.”
Added Mara: “He's a Hall of Fame coach, a Hall of Fame person. He leaves big shoes to fill.”
2. SEARCH BEGINS WITH MCADOO AND SPAGNUOLO
Like he did with then-general manager Ernie Accorsi in 2004, Mara will lead an “extensive” search for the next head coach alongside Reese, and the two will conduct the initial interviews. Mara would not get into specifics about candidates, but he did say Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo, Coughlin’s most recent offensive and defensive coordinators, will be interviewed.
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“I think our offense certainly improved,” Mara responded when asked about McAdoo, who just completed his second season as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. “I think he's proven himself to be a very good teacher, has a very good handle on our offense. I think he communicates very well. I think he shows some leadership skills. I think he has some good qualities.”
On Spagnuolo, who returned to the Giants’ sideline in 2015, Mara said: “I think he did the best he could with what he had. I want to hear from him what he felt about how we performed there, what improvements he would make going forward. He'll have that opportunity to explain that.”
3. WHAT THE GIANTS WANT IN NEXT HEAD COACH
Based on responses to questions from the media, we learned that Mara is open to an outside hire who does not have Giants ties and that he “of course” would consider a college coach for the position. Additionally, changing the offense again for franchise quarterback Eli Manning will be taken into consideration, but that “can’t be the overriding determination,” according to Mara.
Since the events that unfolded in the last couple days, Reese said he and Mara started talking about a list and started to set up interviews with different coaches around the league.
“We want to do it sooner than later, I think John said that,” Reese said. “We want to get the right guy. It has to be the right person who can communicate with the players, can teach, has something to prove, all those kinds of things, a guy that wants to win Super Bowls.”
Added Reese: “Coach Coughlin, he's going to be a tough act to follow. First of all, if a guy has thin skin, he shouldn't come here. That's the first thing I'll tell him. If you have thin skin, this is not the job for you. Don't come here.”
4. DEFENSE WILL BE ADDRESSED; CAP SITUATION IS ‘A LOT BETTER’
Since the 2011 Super Bowl run, the Giants have finished in the bottom-five in defense every year, including last in yards allowed this season.
“We have some holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball,” Mara said. “No question about that. You can't hide from the record. The record indicates we do not have enough championship-caliber players. That's on us.”
While the best practice will always be building through the draft, Reese said the cap situation “is a lot better than it has been for a while” in terms of bringing in free agents.
5. COUGHLIN ‘NOT NECESSARILY’ DONE WITH COACHING, COULD RETURN IN ADVISORY ROLE
After Coughlin spoke, Mara shed light on a conversation he and co-owner Steve Tisch had with the former coach about staying on in some capacity. No one knows the team or league better than Coughlin, who could work in “some sort of advisory capacity on the personnel side.”
“I don't want to let all that knowledge walk out the door,” Mara said. “I asked him to think about over the next few days, ways that he might be able to help us going forward. He agreed to do that.”
Earlier, Coughlin was asked if he extinguished his coaching flame, to which he responded, “Not necessarily, not necessarily.” Whatever his next role may be, he will remain involved with the game and players.
“I will somehow, some way,” Coughlin said. “I will. My wife will not want me to be home longer than probably 48 hours. ‘There is your coat, don't you have someplace to go?’”