Okay, so the Giants' preseason finale tomorrow night against the New England Patriots in Foxboro is hardly a Shakespearean drama. The primary goal of any NFL team entering its final preseason game is to escape without an injury. But it certainly will be interesting to see how Coughlin deploys his personnel.
The Giants will take the field in Gillette Stadium approximately 69 hours after their Monday night game against the Jets concluded, a rapid turnaround that is almost as unlikely as an NFL mention in Hamlet.
The starters normally play only a series or two in the final preseason game. Because the first teamers played into the third quarter on Monday, it's possible Coughlin will tether them to the sideline on Thursday.
"That will be determined as we go along," Coughlin said on a conference call yesterday. "I'm not going to say anything just yet."
Asked if he has thought about not playing Eli Manning and Co., Coughlin said, "Under these circumstances, yes."
Another potential factor is Coughlin's concern that the schedule disruptions will adversely affect the team's preparation for the start of the regular season on Sept. 11 in Washington.
"You are supposed to be in training camp to prepare and that certainly means to practice," Coughlin said. "Just take a look at the practices we will not have this week. You are talking about a force of nature, you're not talking about someone making a decision not to practice. We were all caught short and we were instructed to play it safe. We got a practice in Saturday, and Sunday and Monday came along. This week, you are only talking about jog throughs. You are into that mode. The only day that you could have done anything was (yesterday). (Today) you can't. It is a lot of forced learning and you have a lot of sore people who are going through the idea of sitting right down the next day. Are they complaining? No, nobody is complaining. Whatever we are assigned to do, we will do it. It is just not an optimum situation."
Manning threw 30 passes in the loss to the Jets and seems completely unconcerned his next in-game snap might be in FedEx Field.
"Usually the last preseason game you only play a series or so," Manning said. "I don't think it's going to be a big difference either way. When you get to this point I think the most important point is going into the season healthy. Our offense is healthy right now. You don't want to rush anything, put guys in a situation where they're playing on short notice for a series or two. Whatever he decides, we'll agree with and do our job. We're preparing and getting ready."
The Giants and Patriots annually face each other in the preseason finale and Manning usually stays on the field just long enough to break a sweat. Last year, he played two series and threw nine passes, completing seven. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw had four carries.
The previous year, Manning threw three times and Brandon Jacobs, then the team's primary runner, had four attempts.
In 2008, Manning never stepped on the field as Coughlin decided to play it safe and let David Carr play the entire game. Several other starters did not play, including wide receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, tight end Kevin Boss, tackle Kareem McKenzie and defensive end Justin Tuck.
Though some players would surely like to take the night off, especially after playing on Monday, many others would like to line up and play.
"There is nothing like getting ready for a game like the preseason," linebacker Michael Boley said. "I don't know how much work we are going to get on Thursday but whatever it is, whether it is a series or quarter, I think we have to go out and make the most out of it."
Does Boley expect to play?
"I don't know yet but for us as players, we have to get ready for it both mentally and physically to play on Thursday," he said. "Coach has not told us anything so as far as we are concerned, we are getting ready."
"It doesn't matter," cornerback Corey Webster said. "I think it is whatever coach goes with. Due to our situation and having two turnaround games, I think he is going to do the right thing by us and making the right decision on whether we play or not play. I always think it is good to get the work and I like the game speed compared to practice. There is nothing like going out there and getting game speed and being put in those situations. I think it is always a plus for players to come in and have those plays but I think coach will do a great job making a decision and he will let us know what we are going to do this week."
If the starters do play, they will face the unusual challenge of participating in two games in four days, with little practice time and a short flight thrown in for good measure.
"We have been doing a great job in New York of doing midstream adjusting," Webster said. "We had a couple of times last year where we had some traveling arrangements and we got out there and did a great job adjusting to them so if we have to do it, I don't think it will be a problem. I think all the guys are focused and their concentration is on football now and I think we will be prepared for it."
The flip side of the equation is that if the players are spectators tomorrow night, they will have no more game action to work out kinks, correct mistakes or simply experience the speed of the action that is difficult to duplicate in practice. Coughlin will certainly conduct several productive workouts before the Redskins game, but are the Giants ready for the games that count without one more dry run?
"We're ready," Manning said. "I've never put too much on preseason. Obviously, you want to go out there and perform well and move the ball and score touchdowns. That makes you feel good, but I wouldn't rely on what happens in preseason and what's going to happen in the regular season. We put a lot of effort into the regular season. All of our preparation, put us in the right situations and plays and getting in and out of checks, studying all of the defenses. Preseason, not as much is done. That's how we got into that situation with the hot in the first place (a misread that resulted in an interception vs. the Jets). I think under normal circumstances, we have more tips on what their blitzes are, what they're doing."
The defense is equally confident.
"I think we are ready for the challenges that we are going to face in the upcoming season," Webster said. "We are doing a great job but obviously you hate to lose people. You hate to lose people to injury but I think the guys are doing a great job of stepping up. Aaron Ross has been a starter before, so it is nothing new to him. He is doing a great job in that area and the defense is prepared to open up the season and play well."
The bottom line is, whether the starters make their customary brief appearance or never step on the field, the Giants will be ready for the Redskins.
"There's still work to do," Manning said. "Fortunately, we still have some time. We still have a week and a half or so before our first game. We have some preparation. We have some film study that we can do and we'll get ready for Washington. Know specifically how they play things. What do they do and so you get a little better understanding of what our exact routes need to be like, how crisp they are going to be, play a little faster. Have a little heads up (of) exactly what we're going to get from them. There are always some surprises and that's when you adjust and you react and you follow the rules. I think the guys are ready and looking forward to getting started. I think we've had good work from our offensive line, our receivers and running backs. We've looked very solid and strong at times. I think we've been physical up front and controlled the line of scrimmage. I think we've hit some big plays and been sound in our passing game. There can be improvements and we have to limit some of the mistakes, but we've done some really good things."
*This is the seventh consecutive year the Giants will face New England in the preseason finale. The Giants won last year's game in East Rutherford, 20-17, and lead the preseason series, 12-8. The two teams first met in the preseason in 1971.
The Giants will return to Foxboro on Nov. 6 for a regular season game vs. the Patriots.