Tom Coughlin’s Giants coaching career has been so wrought with wild fluctuations and jostlings of public perception that he inspired us to write one of our very first columns for this magazine about the simple question of: What is a good coach? Our conclusion was not a matter of X’s and O’s or motivation. Ultimately, we concluded that the main job of a head coach was “to harness momentum and stay out of its way.” Whether we were right or not, Coughlin has one week, a week to maybe save his job, and all he can really do is cross his fingers and hope he ends up the luckiest boy in the universe.
As everybody knows by now, the Giants need to beat the Redskins on Sunday and have the Packers lose to the Bears to sneak into the playoffs, a situation far less ideal than the “clear road to No. 2 seed” spot they had two weeks ago. This was complicated considerably by the Eagles’ upset loss to the Vikings on Tuesday night, assuring the Bears of at least the No. 2 seed (and a first-round bye). Still, the Bears might have something to play for; they could end up with the No. 1 overall seed, and home-field advantage throughout, if they win and if the Falcons lose to the Panthers and the Saints lose to the Buccaneers. Here’s how that crazy scenario looks. Even if a No. 1 seed isn’t on the line, some think the Bears will go all out anyway, considering this is the Packers, their biggest rival.
But all the Giants can worry about is themselves, and there’s plenty to worry about. The Giants look lost, confused, and almost disinterested, to the point that the major concern has to be whether or not they win, not whether or not the Packers lose. That said: They’re playing the Redskins, a team they dominated so thoroughly on December 5 that it was difficult to stay awake past halftime. The Giants, theoretically, should be able to run all over Washington like they did last time. But this is a very different season, all of a sudden, than it was less than a month ago. The Giants look scared and bewildered by the overnight plummet. The Redskins are the right team to play in that situation. It might just be a week late — for the Giants, for their playoff hopes, for Tom Coughlin. All anyone can do is hope, and beg for another chance.