The Tom Coughlin era is over.
The 69-year-old two-time Super Bowl winner who served as Giants coach for 12 years, longer than anyone but Hall of Famer Steve Owen (23 years), will not return for the 2016 season.
“I met with 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 Monday in a statement. “I strongly believe the time is right for me and my family, and as I said, the Giants organization.”
Coughlin insisted in the statement that “this is not a sad occasion for me,” although the three straight losing seasons did seem to take their toll. “Obviously, the past three years have not been what any of us expect, and as head coach, I accept the responsibility for those seasons.”
There were also obvious, tangible triumphs.
“I am gratified and proud that we were able to deliver two more Lombardi Trophies to the display case in our lobby during that time,” he said. “That is a tribute to our players and staff, and it was truly fulfilling to be the leader of those teams.”
In 20 NFL seasons, Coughlin is 182-157, including a 12-7 record in the postseason. His record with the Giants was 102-90. He is one win shy of matching his mentor, Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, for 10th place on the all-time list. He is also two wins short of matching the regular-season total of Parcells (172). Coughlin and Mike Shanahan are tied at 170, which is 11th all-time.
Only Owen (153, 1931-53) won more games with the Giants than Coughlin.
Coughlin said after Sunday’s loss to the Eagles that he had not yet made up his mind about his future. He met with the players around 11 a.m. Monday and offered no hint as to what would happen, although he alluded to the fact that he could be leaving. At 1 p.m. he met with ownership. At 2 p.m. he met with his coaching staff for the second time in the day and informed them of the decision.
“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.”
Mara, who will address the media Tuesday morning, will take the lead in that search. He was a key player in the hiring of Coughlin, who was the final head coach hired under the ownership of Wellington Mara, John’s father, who died in 2005. That undoubtedly adds poignancy to what transpired for Mara.
Coughlin may have been nudged toward resigning, but Tisch’s statement did not support that theory.
“He embodies the beliefs of this organization and everything the New York Giants stand for,” Tisch said. “I respect his decision, and while I appreciate Tom’s perspective and attitude, at the same time, I am a bit saddened today because we are losing a man who is just as good a person as he is a coach. He is a Hall of Famer in every regard.”
Coughlin’s NFL head-coaching career began when he was named the first coach of the expansion Jaguars for the 1995 season. In 1996, he brought them to the AFC Championship Game as a second-year franchise.
He was hired by the Giants in 2004, replacing Jim Fassel. In 2007, with the team on the verge of collapse under his heavy-handed discipline, Coughlin made a conscious decision to change his ways. He became a bit more flexible, more tolerant of his players, and it paid off. The Giants won Super Bowl XLII that season, topping the 18-0 Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in championship game history. Four seasons later, he and the Giants again beat the favored Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.