ESPN celebrates the 100th anniversary of Vince Lombardi's birth with the "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" series, saluting the finest innovators, motivators, tacticians, teachers and champions ever to stalk the sideline. Follow along as we reveal our list of the top 20 coaches of all time and document the lineage of the league's most influential coaching trees.
Tom Coughlin is a resilient, old-school coach with two Super Bowl titles highlighting a long, successful career. Known as a strict disciplinarian, Coughlin quickly built the Jaguars into contenders from scratch before turning the Giants into two-time champions.
Four seasons into his tenure as New York's head coach, while many were questioning his job security, Coughlin led the wild-card Giants on an improbable 2007 postseason run that culminated with a stunning victory over the previously unbeaten and heavily favored New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
History repeated four seasons later. With Coughlin again on the hot seat, the Giants eked out the NFC East title with a 9-7 record, then went on an out-of-the-blue run to a Super Bowl XLVI victory over the Patriots. The Giants set a record for worst regular-season winning percentage for a Super Bowl champion.
Coughlin's NFL head-coaching career began when he took over expansion Jacksonville after multiple NFL assistant jobs and college stops, including three seasons as Boston College's head coach. In 1996, their second season of existence, the Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship Game. Coughlin's Jaguars again got within one game of the Super Bowl in 1999.
Coughlin first tasted Super Bowl success as wide receivers coach for the Bill Parcells-led Giants in their 1990 championship season.
-- Kevin Stone
COUGHLIN THROUGH THE EYES OF A PLAYER: ELI MANNING
After the second Super Bowl, Coach Coughlin and I had kind of a unique moment. I hadn't seen him right after the game with the hoopla and then doing interviews. So now I'm dressed and I've done all my interviews, and I'm leaving the locker room and realize I haven't talked to Coach Coughlin. So I knock on his door and go into his office, and right away we both start analyzing what we should've done in that last minute [against New England].
It was second down, and they'd just taken a timeout. We were thinking they have one timeout left, let's run the ball here, they'll use their timeout, we'll run it again, let the clock run all the way down, then kick a field goal to take the lead. But on second down they let us score, saved a timeout and got the ball back with 50 seconds rather than getting it with 15. Of course, they needed a touchdown now to win the game instead of a field goal.
So after the game, Coach Coughlin and I started analyzing it. We knew they were going to let us score. Do you take a knee? Do you kick a field goal? Do you try to score? We start dissecting that, thinking into it. I threw in my theory. He gave me his theory. What's the best possible way? It was a unique situation. You've got to score. You don't want to settle for a field goal in that situation. How do you possibly handle that situation if it ever happens again? We do situations on Saturdays. That would be a good situation to think about and go over.
And I think he's ingrained that in me, to always be planning, always be thinking, and to be prepared for every situation. You watch things happen, whether it happens to you or another team, and you learn from it and you can be prepared for it. He wanted to talk about what happened at the end of that game, but I did, too. We shook hands and hugged and took that moment to smile and enjoy it, and then I kind of said, "Hey, that situation at the end, we didn't talk about it on the sideline prior to if they let us score, what do you do?"
-- Giants quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, as told to Ashley Fox
ESPN "Greatest Coaches in NFL History" voting panel: Chris Berman, Jeffri Chadiha, John Clayton, Colin Cowherd, Mike Ditka, Gregg Easterbrook, Herm Edwards, David Fleming, Ashley Fox, Greg Garber, Mike Golic, Suzy Kolber, Eric Mangini, Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio, Bill Polian, Rick Reilly, Mike Sando, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, Seth Wickersham, Trey Wingo.