INDIANAPOLIS • No more hot seat for Tom Coughlin. No more second-guessing.
The 65-year-old Coughlin made NFL history on Sunday, becoming the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl by guiding the Giants to a 21-17 victory over New England for his second NFL championship in four years.
“What I was concerned with was these guys making their own history,” Coughlin said. “This is such a wonderful thing, these guys carving their own history.”
The Giants did that by capturing the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl championship. New York only trails Pittsburgh with six, and San Francisco and Dallas with five, and became the first team to win the title after finishing the regular season 9-7.
Coughlin and Hall of Fame candidate Bill Parcells are the only coaches to lead the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, and this game was as wild as New York’s 17-14 win over the Patriots in 2008 for his first championship.
“Each one is very unique, and this one is just as exciting, probably more so because of the kind of year we had,” Coughlin said after seeing Tom Brady’s desperation pass into the end zone fall incomplete. “What a wonderful experience it was to see the team come together like they did. Our defense started to play very well, we gained some confidence, and as they say the rest is history.”
That history will show was that it was Coughlin who kept this team together through early season injuries, a four-game midseason losing streak and a depressing loss to Washington in game No. 14 when they lost a share of first place with a no-show performance.
Instead of getting upset, Coughlin told his team everything was still within their grasp, and they went out and took it all, winning their final six games.
The final one was the most thrilling with two-time MVP Eli Manning leading an 88-yard drive that Ahmad Bradshaw capped with a 6-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds to go on a play the Patriots let the running back score to save time.
“We won so many games like this, at the end of the game, the end of the fourth quarter,” Coughlin said. “We talked about finishing all the time and winning the fourth quarter, being the stronger team, making the plays, and it happened again.”
It marked the seventh time that Manning had led a fourth-quarter comeback this season, and it’s become the norm in a season that Coughlin has talked of nothing more than finishing games.
“That last drive, looking at each other in the huddle, looking in each other’s eyes, we said we’re going to finish this things,” tackle David Diehl said.
The Giants didn’t finish games the previous two years and they missed the playoffs.
In his final pregame speech Saturday, Coughlin talked about finishing again, players believing in themselves and playing for each other.
His final topic was family and love, not what one would expect from a man who is known as a disciplinarian. Coughlin, however, has learned how to reach young players lately and this message sunk in.
“It was very passionate,” defensive captain Justin Tuck said. “We could have come out and played at that point, we were so excited. It was hard sleep after a speech like that. I don’t know what it is about Coach Coughlin, but his Super Bowl speeches, I give them a 10. They got me ready to play. I know he looks dull at times, but he is a fiery guy. You could tell it was from the heart.”
Coughlin not only motivated his team, he probably outcoached Bill Belichick.
The Giants outgained the Patriots 396-349, and held the ball more than 37 minutes. Once again, New York won the turnover battle 1-0, giving them a 12-2 advantage in their six-game winning streak.
Coordinator Kevin Gilbride’s offense probably should have put up more points and Perry Fewell’s’ defense kept the Patriots off the scoreboard for the final 26:20.
“It can’t get much better,” Giants chief executive John Mara said. “To have it happen one time, the way it did four years ago, was pretty incredible. To have it happen twice is hard to put into words.”
Coughlin laughed when asked about being a candidate for the Hall of Fame, but it’s obvious his recent accomplishments have put him on the hall’s radar.
He downplayed matching Parcells’ Super Bowl win total.
“I’m very thankful and very grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had as a head coach of the New York Giants,” Coughlin said. “The wonderful players that I have worked with, the coaches that have surrounded us and the support from ownership, that’s what this is all about.”
And there is no doubt Coughlin will have that ownership support for as long as he wants.