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Tom Coughlin Goes by the Book, and Wins

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota

“He wanted to know exactly how long it would take to get into the locker room at halftime,” said Perkins, who assumed a multitude of football duties in his first year at Jacksonville. “We did time trials — 19 seconds, 20 seconds. I thought he was nuts.”

Next, Perkins was helping design the office rooms where coaches would watch game videos. Coughlin was worried about how far the seats would be from the video screen.

“He had me call other teams in the league and ask them how far their screens were from their chairs,” Perkins said.

“People thought I was nuts. They had to go measure — seven feet, eight feet. Tom decided on seven feet.”

Randy Edsall remembers his first 1976 practice at Syracuse when Coughlin was his quarterbacks coach.

“We were doing dropback drills,” said Edsall, now the head coach at Maryland. “Under center, Tom told us that we should imagine both feet at high noon on a clock face. When we drop back, his instructions were to take our first step back and at 4 o’clock.

“Later that day, we’re watching practice tape and Tom is getting on me big time. ‘Randy, you’re stepping back at 3:30, not 4 o’clock.’ I’m 17 years old and I thought, ‘What is the deal with this guy?’ ”

Pete Mitchell was the tight end when Coughlin was the head coach at Boston College, then played five seasons for him at Jacksonville.

“I would hate it when some new player to the team would come to one of those short Saturday morning practices wearing black socks,” Mitchell said Thursday. “Oh, boy, here comes the speech and the fine. There might be 60 guys on the field but somehow Tom would see those black socks before the first whistle. No black socks, man, that’s the rule.”

There is nothing easier than gathering stories of Tom Coughlin’s persnickety ways. His former players and coaching brethren offer them with laughing amusement, even if that often morphs into an appreciation for Coughlin’s single-mindedness.

But with Coughlin about to coach in his fourth conference championship game Sunday, which puts him one victory from a second Super Bowl appearance, it seems time to appraise him for more than his punctiliousness.

Should the Giants advance and win a second Super Bowl under him on Feb. 5, Coughlin would become just the 13th coach to win two or more Super Bowls and just the eighth to do so without losing one. He already has a better playoff winning percentage than Tom Landry, Don Shula and Bill Parcells, who, like Coughlin, was the Giants’ coach for eight years.

But fans like easy, obvious characterizations for their coaching greats — Landry had the steely unshakable sideline persona, Parcells was the master behind-the-scenes motivator and Bill Walsh was the offensive genius. What then is Coughlin?

If the prism is strictly football, in what category does he fit? There is no accepted coaching category called stickler or nitpicker.

The answer, according to those who have coached and played at his side, is as Coughlin rarely is: nuanced. At the root of everything are Coughlin’s rules, since his core values include, for example, not only being on time for everything, but being five minutes early.

It is why as a teenager delivering groceries he would hastily race his bicycle through the streets of the tiny, windswept upstate New York town of Waterloo, making sure he beat all the other clerks back to the Grand Union for the next round of deliveries. People in Waterloo grew accustomed to the sight of the freckle-faced Coughlin boy with the horn-rimmed glasses — the eldest of seven children — pedaling at breakneck speed with fruit, baking soda or cough syrup in the basket of his bike.

But they knew there was no faster way in Waterloo to get provisions and other necessities to their homes.

View the original article in NYTimes.com

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