One of the most common refrains heard by those who feel Tom Coughlin should keep his job regardless of what happens on Sunday is that he pulled off one of the great upsets in football history when he outcoached Bill Belichick to win Super Bowl XLII.
It sounds like a strong argument because it is totally true. It was a terrific moment at the end of a wonderful run that finished with a third Giants championship. Coughlin was at the top of his profession during that four-game playoff sprint and it is something that can never be erased from the final Coughlin story whenever it gets written.
Glorious as that was, it is also something that can't be brought up ever again as part of a debate about Coughlin's future. We're now three years out from that Super Bowl, which leaves plenty of other things to discuss when evaluating the totality of the job that Coughlin has done as Giants coach. Winning the Super Bowl was great, but it can't carry more weight than everything else that has gone on during his tenure with the Giants.
That doesn't mean he should be fired. It just means he should be evaluated with wider eyes and fuller memories than seem to be the usual when the topic of his job performance comes to the surface.
The same holds for players from that run. Eli Manning's been particularly bad this season, but people still talk about him like he is an elite quarterback on the basis of his two scoring drives in the fourth quarter of that Super Bowl. Amazing moments, to be sure, but how do two drives balance out against the mountains of evidence that he doesn't handle himself all that well in pressure situations?
People have been hurting themselves as they stretch to find ways to explain away Manning's struggles. He's got too many hurt receivers say some while others say he's trying to do too much and some make the ludicrous argument that he's just too confident in his ability. We'll pause so you can recover from the laughing fit that notion produces because the idea that Manning is overconfident becomes more ridiculous every time you see him walking off the field hanging his head like a 9-year-old fresh off a scolding from his mother.
How's this for an explanation? Manning is a good, but not great, quarterback playing like a good, but not great, quarterback. That's what his total history tells you, that he is on a level with Matt Schaub or Joe Flacco instead of being anywhere close to his brother or Tom Brady. That's not an insult, these are good players who simply aren't at the elite level people have tried to foist on Eli since he won the Super Bowl.
The list goes on. Justin Tuck, a terrific player, has been horribly miscast as a leader because he was the heir apparent to Michael Strahan. Injuries have made Osi Umenyiora a sometimes player that is treated like a star because he was one several years ago. The offensive line has been given far too much rope because of their role in that run and it's starting to hang the Giants as a result.
When the shortcomings of these players, Coughlin or the general Giants regime come up for discussion, there is inevitably a mention of that Super Bowl as a defense for them. It's time for that to stop so that the Giants can get back on the road toward their next one.