Giants' Coughlin to return, but staff still in limbo

Patti Traina, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' management will waste little time commencing its evaluation process this week in order to halt what team COO John Mara indicated has been a season and a half slide from the top of the NFL heap to the middle of the pack.
One of the first areas that will be settled within the coming days is the coaching aspect. Head coach Tom Coughlin said Monday he would like to continue to coach, and while no official decision has been made as of yet, that appears to be the direction the Giants will be taking.
"I expressed to Tom this morning that we do want him back as our head coach," said Mara of Coughlin, who would be entering the final year of his contract in 2014.
Coughlin, 67, made it clear he is not ready to retire.
"I want to coach," he said. "Everybody wants to know what's next for me. I hope it's coaching the New York Giants,"
The Giants went 7-9 this season after starting 0-6.
While Coughlin is expected to return, the assistant coaching staff is quite another story, as Mara did not hide his displeasure with how the team, and in particular, the offense, performed this season.
"I think our offense is broken right now and we need to fix that," he said.
Mara said he had concerns about whether the offensive line would hold up through the season, and hinted that he had questions about the depth.
But when it came to some of the decisions made by the coaches, he was left wondering like everyone else whether the decisions were in the best interest of the team.
One example he cited by name is that of receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who when asked to step in for the injured Victor Cruz, performed well.
"I'm not sure why it took us three years to find out Jerrel Jernigan could play," he said. "We finally put him in the game and he starts making plays.
"Sometimes you have to put younger players in the game and give them a chance to fail tor to succeed," Mara said. "It would have been nice if he had gotten into the game a little bit earlier, but that's not my decision."
That decision would have fallen on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, whom some believe could be in danger of losing his job. Although the Giants have won two Super Bowl championships with Gilbride as their offensive coordinator, the offense finished 28th overall, its rushing game finished 29th and its passing game finished 19th overall in 2013.
"Obviously that's one of the topics we'll be having at the end of the week, so until we have it, I don't want to comment on it," Mara said. "There are some changes that need to be made in the entire organization and whether (the coaching) ends up being one of them or not, I'd rather wait until we have those discussions first."
If the Giants do decide to part ways with Gilbride, one potential candidate who might receive consideration is Mike Sullivan, who spent time on Coughlin's staff as a receivers and quarterback coach before departing to become the offensive coordinator under Greg Schiano at Tampa Bay.
With Schiano and his staff fired, Sullivan becomes free to pursue a new opportunity.
Might that opportunity come from the Giants?
"That's a topic of discussion with Tom and Jerry," Mara reiterated. "We obviously think very highly of him but that has yet to be discussed."
One thing that Mara does hope will come out of the discussions over the next few days is that he, Reese and Coughlin will all be on the same page moving forward.
"I have opinions and I'm sure Jerry has opinions as does Tom. I'd like to think that at the end of the day, we'll get together and be on the same page.
"Our fans deserved better," Mara said. We vow that we'll do everything we need to do to improve the team next season."
-- Defensive end Justin Tuck said he planned to meet with the Giants front office to open a dialogue with the team about a potential return.
Tuck, whose contract expired this season, had his most productive year since 2010, a performance surge that earlier in the season he attributed to finally being healthy. He finished the season as the team leader in sacks with 11, his first double-digit season since 2010 when he recorded 11.5 sacks.
With so many other pressing needs, Tucks' return isn't a slam-dunk, but as he has said so many times before, he would like very much to return to the only team he's ever played for as a pro.
"I think I would love to retire as a Giant. Everyone knows how great this place is and how great it is to play for this organization, these fans, this city, this region," he said. "That's the ideal, but again, I understand that football is a business and just like the Giants are going to approach this whole situation and do what's best for the team, I've got to do the same thing for myself. I have no doubt that we'll sit down and take our time and hopefully make something happen."
--QB Eli Manning (high ankle sprain), who left Sunday's victory over Washington before halftime, anticipated he will be in a walking boot "for a while," but he is not believed to need surgery nor is he believed to be in any danger of not being ready when the team reconvenes on April 21 for the start of its annual offseason strength and conditioning program.
--LT Will Beatty (leg) was still undergoing evaluation, but general manager Jerry Reese said that the early prognosis is that Beatty should be able to play again next season.
--RB David Wilson (neck) will undergo a follow-up evaluation shortly after the New Year commences to see where he is in his recovery from a disc issue in his neck. Reese noted that surgery has not been ruled out for Wilson, though it would obviously be up to the player whether to have it. Reese also noted that the team planned to make contingency plans at running back just in case Wilson isn't able to go.
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) said he was encouraged by his progress made in his rehab. He also said that he would make a decision on whether to have surgery no later than the end of January in order to give himself the most amount of time possible to rehab.

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