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By Ryan Wilson
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin go back a long way. Both worked on Bill Parcells' staff with the Giants in the 1980s, and they remain two men who have great admiration for one another.
“I respect a lot of things about Tom – his evaluation of talent, the way he attacks teams, his consistency, his discipline, his team’s toughness, their resiliency," Belichick said.
Coughlin, several blocks away at the Giants' press conference, was just as complimentary. “He’s always been an exceptional defensive coach trained by the best, by Parcells," he said of Belichick. "He’s also become an outstanding offensive coach and Tom Brady has helped him to really diversify and get into areas offensively that only lead to the particular strengths of the individuals involved, and he’s done a very good job of that."
Now, two decades later, Belchick and Coughlin have four Super Bowl titles between them. Three of those Lombardi Trophies belong to New England but that happened during a four-year span from 2001-2004.
In the seven seasons since, the Patriots have made six playoff appearances, but returned to the Super Bowl just once, in 2007, where they lost to the Giants in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. From 2001-2011, New England is 16-5 in the postseason, but since 2006, they're just 6-4. Relatively speaking, 6-4 is a fantastic accomplishment. It's just that we've gone from hailing the Patriots as the next great dynasty four years ago to now wondering if they're even the NFL's best team this century.
In fact, if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI, you could make a case that they belong in that conversation.
New York hasn't had the Pats' sustained success since 2000, but they played in a Super Bowl following the '00 season (a loss to the Ravens), and since Coughlin was hired in 2004, they've been to the playoffs in five of eight seasons. They're 7-3 over that time with three of those wins coming last month.
Since '07, Coughlin's winning percentage with the Giants is impressive (49-31, 0.613), though less so when compared to Belichick (64-16, 0.800). But regular-season accomplishments mean little if they don't culminate in a championship. No one talks about New England's almost perfect 2007 season except to point out that the Giants beat a thought-to-be unstoppable offense and longer odds to earn the Lombardi Trophy.
Yet no one mentions the Giants in the same breath as the Patriots (and to lesser extents, the Steelers, Saints, Packers and before this season, the Colts) and that includes some Giants players.
"Honestly, for us, that ’07 (Super Bowl) was kind of like us coming together as a football team," defensive end Justin Tuck said this week. "We just said we wanted to kill a dynasty, and that’s what they were. But now, we’ve been here before and we felt as though all that is secondary. We just want to come in here and have our mind focused on playing a great football game, and not really getting caught up in all the hoopla around the game.”
That's exactly what Super Bowl week is -- hoopla around a game -- but the absurdities of Media Day shouldn't obscure what the Giants will have accomplished if they win. Coughlin remains unimpressed, at least for now.
"That’s the furthest thing from my mind is how this enhances my legacy," Coughlin said Tuesday. "That’s nowhere near anything that I am thinking about right now. What I’m concerned with is the concentration of our players, putting ourselves in the best frame of mind that we can possibly be, preparing our team to the best of our ability, and then playing exceptionally well, as best as we possibly can.”
Fair enough, but by Sunday night we could be talking about Coughlin -- who annually (and inexplicably) finds himself on the hot seat -- as the man responsible for bringing the Giants two Super Bowls in five years. Just like Parcells.
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