EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tom Coughlin, who returned the Giants to NFL prominence by winning two Super Bowls, resigned Monday after missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
The Giants announced the decision one day after the Giants (6-10) capped their third straight losing season with a 35-30 defeat against Philadelphia, their third straight and sixth in seven games.
“I met with (owners) 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. “I strongly believe the time is right for me and my family, and … the Giants organization.”
The move may signal the end of a 20-year NFL head coaching career for the 69-year-old Coughlin, one of 13 coaches to win multiple Super Bowls.
“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 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.”
Coughlin, Tisch, Mara and general manager Jerry Reese plan to hold a news conference on Tuesday morning.
The league’s oldest active coach and third-longest tenured among the 32 who finished the season, Coughlin came into 2015 knowing he had to get the Giants back to the postseason to keep his job. It didn’t happen.
“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.
In a what-might-have-been season in the mediocre NFC East, the Giants’ failures came down to, as Coughlin often said, “finishing.” New York lost five games in the final 74 seconds of regulation, including four in the final 7 seconds.
In a loss to the local rival Jets, the Giants yielded a late tying score and then lost when Josh Brown missed his first field goal of the season in overtime on a kick that would have extended the game.
Coughlin’s future was the main topic as players cleaned out their locker at the Giants’ headquarters on Monday. The coach had spoken to the team earlier in the morning and many were saddened by the thought he might not be back.
“He’s been a great coach to play under,” said two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, whose voice quivered at one point talking about his only NFL coach.
“We have a great relationship, great trust. I appreciate the way he works, I think he appreciates the way I handle my business and play quarterback and prepare and get ready. We’ve had a good run, could’ve been better, obviously, but I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said Coughlin was the same coach he has known for the past six seasons during his final meeting with the team, during which he thanked them for their effort.
“Coach Coughlin is always Coach Coughlin,” Pierre-Paul said. “He’s going to be straight blunt with it, he’s not going to sugarcoat anything, he’s going to keep it original and that’s what he did.”
Actually, this might have been one of Coughlin’s best years as a coach. He didn’t have a lot of talent on the roster, and his defense spent the first two months with Pierre-Paul sidelined by a July 4 fireworks mishap that mangled his right hand.
Coughlin posted a 110-93 record in 12 seasons with the Giants, winning three division titles in addition to his two league crowns. He was 72-64 in eight seasons with the then-expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, winning two division titles and taking them to two conference championship games in their first five seasons.
Coughlin came to the Giants in 2004 after Jim Fassel was fired. The no-nonsense coach vowed to restore Giants pride and it didn’t take long. They won the division the following season and shocked the football world by knocking off the then-undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl in February 2008.
Impressively, Coughlin also changed in those first few years. He established a players’ leadership committee and morphed into a more accessible leader who helped his teams bond.
The Giants made the playoffs in four of the first five seasons under Coughlin, and one other time beyond that in 2011, perhaps his best coaching season. He got the team to jell late in the schedule and it won twice on the road in the postseason before earning a second NFL championship, again upsetting the Patriots with a late touchdown.
Coughlin’s lessons have been passed on: Dom Capers, Kevin Gilbride, Dick Jauron, Lane Kiffin, Bobby Petrino, Tony Sparano and Steve Spagnuolo, his current defensive coordinator with the Giants, all moved into NFL head coaching positions.