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Coughlin should let his players take a breather against Patriots

Coughlin should let his players take a breather against Patriots

Tom Coughlin has learned to do a bunch of new things this year, from showing his warm and fuzzy side to the players, to getting along with the media, to enjoying his first-ever Gatorade bath.
It looks as if the Giants' coach has added another talent to his repertoire. He has learned how to dance. Ask him about how he'll deploy his personnel Saturday night against the Patriots, and all of a sudden he turns into Fred Astaire.
"It's difficult for me because we want to win every game," Coughlin said. "I'd rather think about how we can play against a very good opponent and have an opportunity to win."
Notice he doesn't name the opponent in that sentence. Is it undefeated New England in the regular-season finale at Giants Stadium? Or is it Tampa Bay a week later in the first round of the NFC playoffs?
One, two, cha-cha-cha.
What does Coughlin do?
He keeps dancing, right up until Saturday night.
He says it's an important game to win, just like every other regular-season game, and he says he has every intention of doing whatever possible to beat the Patriots. And then he makes certain that any player with any sort of injury does not come near his helmet and shoulder pads.
Brandon Jacobs (ankle). Plaxico Burress (ankle). Gibril Wilson (knee). Antonio Pierce (ankle, hamstring). And anyone else who has been playing hurt trying to get the Giants in the playoffs. Aaron Ross. James Butler. And anyone over 30 and in need of a blow before the playoffs: Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer.
Gentlemen, have a seat.
Eli Manning, two or three series for you, and it's time for Anthony Wright.
There is no reason for Coughlin to approach this game any other way. To put everything into preventing the Patriots from becoming the first team to go 16-0 in the regular season is foolhardy. Even if the Patriots rout the Giants, which is likely, because Bill Belichick will play his regulars for at least a half, it doesn't matter.
It is a delicate proposition for Coughlin, at least publicly. He can't rightly say that he has no interest in winning, even though the Giants are locked into the fifth seed and will play at Tampa next weekend. Period.
But Coughlin knows that how he approaches the game against the Patriots could make all the difference in the world as far as the playoffs are concerned.
If he treats it like any other regular-season game and tries to win at all costs, he runs the obvious risk of having key players injured before a game that really matters. Then again, if he publicly states he will treat this game like the last preseason game, where he gets a little work in for the starters to keep them sharp, then takes them out to make sure they're ready for the opener, then he runs the risk of creating a mentality where his players might unconsciously not try quite as hard and run the risk of getting hurt in their limited playing time.
Opponents have had 15 cracks at knocking off the Patriots, and they all failed. So it's not Coughlin's responsibility to interrupt their shot at history. His first responsibility is to his own team, and that's to make sure it's at optimum strength for the playoffs.
In the meantime, Coughlin will do his best to balance the public requirement of saying he'll try to win the game, and the private and more pressing requirement of getting the Giants in position to beat the Bucs.
Three, four, cha-cha-cha.


Updated : 2021-04-15 14:57 GMT+08:00