Looking at Tom Coughlin's inflexible ways and hair-trigger temper in his earlier days as a coach, one wouldn't peg him as a guy who'd survive the profession into his late 60s. But after changes to his coaching and personal style, the Bill Parcells acolyte found a new level of success by reaching out to his players while keeping the no-nonsense on high. When he coached Kurt Warner for the Giants in 2004, Coughlin asked the veteran quarterback for an assesment of his overall style.
"I saw a great man, a great coach, but I also saw a man who, for some reason, didn't know how to combine those parts of his personality when it came to football," Warner told NJ.com in January about Coughlin. "He could connect with his family on such an intimate level but had no idea how to connect with his players. He was struggling badly. Tom was searching for the right way to lead without compromising his principles."
Now that transformation has occurred, and Coughlin has won two Super Bowls in four seasons, the thought of retirement -- even at age 65 -- is fairly unspeakable. Speaking with Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union during a recent Jay Fund golf tournament benefiting cancer victims in the area, Coughlin sounded like a man who was just getting started.
"I'm not mentally, not physically, ready [to retire]," Coughlin said on Monday. "I feel I have good energy. I'm excited every day. The competitiveness, the nature of the business, is something that I'm still excited about. I don't wander down that path. I don't think about retirement. I enjoy the situation I'm in. I appreciate the backing I've received from [Giants] ownership and the way the players have responded to our program. I really don't feel any pull or tug in another direction. I look at it on a yearly basis. In our business, no matter how many years they give you on the contract, it's a one-year deal anyway."
Coughlin's current contract runs out after next season, but the Giants are expected to tack on a few extra years in the very near future. It's appropriate for a man who's been coaching the team since 2004 but has really found his way since Warner's candid take -- he's got a 74-54 record overall as the G-Men's head man, and all seven of his postseason wins with the franchise have come in the last four seasons.
Now, he said, it's as much about reflecting on his successes as it is making sure everyone's running in military time.
"The greatest part about [the Super Bowl XLVI win over the New England Patriots] is the feeling and sensation you get when your team is all on the same page," Coughlin said. "That's what I reveled in. People said, 'God, you're relaxed, you're kind of enjoying this.' Well, I was confident. I didn't know we were going to win, but I knew we'd play well because our practices in Indianapolis went like clockwork. I felt so good about our team. That's why I enjoyed the moment."
Not that Coughlin has mellowed entirely, as he said during media week for that Super Bowl last February.
"You're asking the wrong guy," he said two days before the game, about his change in process. " I think the one thing that has happened, and I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again, is that once the season is over, you have to take a hard look at yourself and do a valid self-analysis. That's very important if you're going to improve. Decide what it is you can change. Look at your team and decide what it is you can change and what is needed in terms of inspiration and motivation or how you get those messages across to those people. Do your research on the outside, whatever it is you believe in.
"I'm a great reader of autobiographies and historical autobiographies, whatever you get your hands on, and reference things that I think are important in order to win or be the very best that we can be. Probably the one thing over the years that may have happened over the years is I may have gotten a little more patient."
One final thing about Coughlin's future that really matters is how much his family is in his corner. As long as his wife Judy is on board (and she is), the Giants should expect to see Coughlin getting all red-faced in the sidelines for some years to come.
"Judy has never asked me that [retirement] question. She's extremely supportive," he said. "[Coaching] grinds on the family a lot more than it grinds on the head coach."