Coughlin downplays Giants' recent dysfunction

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Coughlin downplays Giants' recent dysfunction

Lunch Break: Who needs the win more: Eagles or Giants?

October 4, 2013, 11:15 am
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The Giants are averaging just 15.3 points per game this season. (USA Today Images)

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the Giants, one of the players questioned the coach. And then another player threatened to punch the first player in the mouth. Good times -- unless you play or root for the Giants. At which point the times have gotten very bad indeed.

The Giants ought to come complete with their own soap opera music these days. They are 0-4. It’s their worst start since they began 0-5 in 1987 during an ugly six-win season. They have been awful defensively, and equally terrible offensively (they average 15.3 points per game, third fewest in the NFL).

And then there’s the drama.

The Giants have been outscored 69-7 in their last two games. After falling to Kansas City by 24 points in Week 4, the previously tight-knit team began to fully unravel.

New York receiver Victor Cruz was asked about a crucial play during the Chiefs game. To wit: The Giants thought they converted on 3-and-17 but came up short. They were about a yard shy, but head coach Tom Coughlin elected to punt since the ball was at the Giants’ 30-yard line and New York only trailed by three at the time.

The punt didn’t go well. K.C. returner Dexter McCluster took it 89 yards for a touchdown that put the Chiefs up by 10 en route to a 31-7 win. Which brings us to the drama and the threats about mouth punching.

After the game, according to the New York Daily News, Cruz kinda/sorta questioned Coughlin’s decision to punt: “I don’t know,” Cruz said. “It was coach’s decision. I’m not getting in coach’s head. It was coach’s decision to do what he has to do. He’s the head honcho. He makes the call and I just go out there and abide by his rules.”

As questioning a coach goes, what Cruz said wasn’t all that egregious. But then someone read his quote to Giants’ defensive lineman Justin Tuck, at which point the team’s simmering tension boiled over.

“If anyone turns on our coach,” Tuck said. “I would be the first one to punch him in the mouth. And put that in print. It better not happen, I know that.”

Quite a few media outlets obliged Tuck. The dustup was mentioned in print. And on television. And on the radio. Not surprisingly, Coughlin and the Giants were asked about the flap this week. Coughlin initially tried to make a joke out of it, saying he asked Cruz “if he wanted to fight” while swearing the conversation was “in good humor.”

If it was (slightly) funny at first, Coughlin didn’t seem so amused during his conference call with the Philadelphia media.

“Listen, for people to that make a big deal out of that is ridiculous,” Coughlin said. “Understand the player’s frustration. The player is an exceptional athlete. The player is a very, very solid team player liked by everyone. Ok? Whatever he said in that regard, it makes absolutely no sense for the media to pick up on something like that..."

He got a little grumbly after that.

Team unity aside, it’s probably not the best idea for Tuck or anyone else to threaten Cruz. While the Giants haven’t been good as a team, Cruz has been excellent. Cruz is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, fifth in touchdowns and 10th in receptions. For a team that has short-circuited all season, he’s one of the few functioning components.

As the New York Daily News pointed out, questioning Coughlin in any capacity really doesn’t happen. The last Giant to do it was probably running back Tiki Barber, but that was early in Coughlin’s tenure as New York’s head coach.

While Barber and Coughlin have a long-running feud, Cruz and Coughlin reportedly get along well. Or at least they get along well enough that Coughlin helped turn the undrafted free agent into a top-flight receiver who recently signed a $43 million contract. While those negotiations were in progress, Coughlin spoke on Cruz’s behalf and said several times that the Giants wanted Cruz back “as badly as we’ve ever wanted anybody.”

“I know [the media] likes to be divisive when things aren’t going well, but I really don’t appreciate that kind of -- Victor is an outstanding young guy,” Coughlin said, continuing on about the topic. “He meant nothing by [his remarks]. I’m sure he had no idea it was going to get the kind of coverage it did.”

Ok. Never mind. Everything is fine in New York. Nothing to see there. Move along.

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