By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
When the subject of Tom Coughlin’s future was addressed on NBC’s Football Night in America, former safety Rodney Harrison came to the defense of the former New York Giants’ head coach, calling him “a future Hall of Famer.”
Excuse me … what?
Harrison may be right. And he may be wrong. But to assume Tom Coughlin is a dead-bolt cinch for the Pro Football Hall of Fame just because he won two Super Bowls not only is presumptuous and premature. It could also be dead … flat … wrong.
Look, I have enormous respect for what Tom Coughlin did with the Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars. But I had enormous respect for what Jimmy Johnson did in Dallas, too. And what Tom Flores did in Oakland and George Seifert in San Francisco and Mike Shanahan in Denver.
Like Coughlin, they won two Super Bowls each. And, like Coughlin, they’re not in the Hall of Fame. One difference: I don’t hear any of these guys referenced as “future Hall of Famers.”
Johnson was a Hall-of-Fame finalist last year and is a semifinalist for the Class of 2016, yet the next guy who calls him a lock for Canton will be the first. Nevertheless, he restored one of the game’s storied franchises, leading it to three Super Bowls in four years – two of which he coached – and turning the Dallas Cowboys into the Team of the Decade in the 1990s.
Then there’s Tom Flores. He not only won a pair of Super Bowls as a head coach; he won one as a player (backup quarterback in Kansas City) and as an assistant coach (Oakland). I don’t hear him mentioned as a future Hall-of-Famer, either, yet he was more than a head coach. He was a social pioneer — the first Latino coach to win a Super Bowl.
Now let’s move on to Mike Shanahan. He has as many career victories (170) as Coughlin but fewer losses – as in 12 fewer. That means his .552 winning percentage (170-138) exceeds Coughlin’s, with his 170 wins tying him and Coughlin for 11th best among NFL coaches.
But tell me who refers to Shanahan as “a future Hall of Famer.” Uh-huh, the same number who use that term to describe George Seifert. Yet Seifert’s .648 winning percentage is better than anyone in this group and ranks 12th among NFL coaches with 50 or more career victories.
The knock on Seifert, of course, is that he won with Bill Walsh’s players. Except many of those players were gone by 1994 when he captured his second Super Bowl. OK, well, then, the knock on him is that when he left San Francisco he belly-flopped in Carolina, and, yep, that’s fair. He was 16-32 in three years there.
Johnson didn’t have much success in Miami, either, failing to win a division in four seasons with Dan Marino at quarterback and going 36-28. Flores bombed out in Seattle, where he was 14-34 in three seasons, and we all know about Shanahan. He went to the playoffs once in his last seven years of coaching, and that was in Washington where he was one-and-done in the 2012 postseason.
His record the last seven years: 48-64, including 3-13 his last season.
And that takes us to Coughlin. Anyone want to tell me what he’s done the past four years? The answer is: Not much. He didn’t make the playoffs and only once had a winning season. In fact, since upsetting New England in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants are 28-36 and this year finished by losing six of their last seven.
I heard what Eli Manning said Monday: That Tom Coughlin didn’t fail the Giants; that the players failed Tom Coughlin. And he’s probably right. But, as Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are,” and Tom Coughlin’s record says he hasn’t won in three seasons.
Moreover, he just finished 6-10 for the second straight year and the fifth time in his career.
That’s not an indictment. It’s simply to say that if you’re going to hold the second acts of Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores and George Seifert and Mike Shanahan against them, you’re going to have to do it with Tom Coughlin, too. Yes, he won two Super Bowls – including one of the most astounding upsets in the game’s history – but so did the others, and nobody calls them “future Hall of Famers.”
Nobody should call Tom Coughlin that, either … until or unless it happens.