New York Giants’ Coughlin earned the right to win

The cover of New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin's new book.

The cover of New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin’s new book.

When you’re told that Tom Coughlin will be on the phone, you come prepared. The two-time Super Bowl winning coach of the New York Giants is a stickler for rules and is known for setting clocks five minutes early. So one must be on time with him.

“I hope you’ve read the book,” a publicist says. “We’ve had some problems.”

Coach Coughlin has written Earn the Right to Win, How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation, co-written with David Fisher and published by Penguin.

“After we won Super Bowl XLVI, we decided that the last six weeks were such an exciting run that maybe we ought to share our knowledge of how to prepare,” the New York Giants head coach said during an exclusive interview for Hersam Acorn Newspapers and WGCH Radio. “If you do your job to the best of your ability, if you’re committed, focused, if you concentrate on a daily basis, if you work in the meeting room and end up with a very good practice day, then you’ve earned the right to win. We do not know that we’re going to win but we know how well we’ll play.”

Coughlin said these are old-fashioned values that he described as “blue collar.”

“They’re rock solid principals,” he said. “Respect for all, and fear none.”

Yet Coughlin, 66, says the book isn’t just aimed at the football fan. While the stories might be football specific, there are tales of meeting legendary basketball coach John Wooden, along with real-life instances of being prepared. Coughlin grew up in Waterloo, N.Y., where he was raised simply and learned the values that he has carried through his life.

“There’s a universal appeal,” he said of the book. “I think about my daughters and their families and how difficult a day they must have with preparation. This book is for anyone. Anyone in a leadership capacity or an organizational capacity can benefit from this book.”

The hard edge that he brought through various stops, from Boston College to being a member of Bill Parcells’ staff in Super Bowl XXV, to the first head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he went to two AFC Championship games has had to adapt. His old-school style did not work well at first with the Giants, especially with team leader Michael Strahan, but with some effort, Coughlin adjusted.

“Michael has done a remarkable job,” he said. “He’s very talented. He was an exceptional football player, will be a hall of famer, and his talents are vast. I’m not surprised by anything he does.”

Players who had little regard for him have learned to love him.

Strahan wrote the foreward to the book. Other players, such as former Jaguar Fred Taylor, recount the animosity that Coughlin could bring out in them. Yet if they’re asked now, they understand him better.

Now back to those famous rules of his, as the coached laughed when told that preparation was critical on both sides of the telephone.

“We’ve always had rules that compliment those handed down from the league,” Coughlin said. “We have our own team rules, about pride and doing things the right way, about respect for one-another and for the facility and for the unbelievable opportunity that we’ve been given to play in this great National Football League.

“There’s one rule that’s absolutely critical to anyone that functions with the New York Giants organization, and that’s punctuality,” added the head coach. “When we first came here, we set all the clocks five minutes early. We wanted to see and perceive the energy with which people came to work. We wanted to see them devoted to doing better. We still do that today.”

So what about preparation and how far does he look ahead?

“We have short-term schedules, long-term schedules, for one o’clock games and four o’clock games,” he said. “We lay this out well in advance. You have to be able to adjust to anything.”

As for the 2013 New York Giants, coach Coughlin says the team is preparing for the draft and adding to the team via free agency.

Coughlin also has many passions outside of football.

He is a lover of history, and frequently quotes Theodore Roosevelt. He loves his family. Yet among his passion is the Jay Fund, which he founded in honor of Jay McGillis, who developed leukemia while playing for Coughlin at Boston College. McGillis died in the summer of 1992, and Coughlin created the foundation in 1996 while he was coaching in Jacksonville.

“My daughter, Keli Coughlin Joyce, is the Executive Director,” he said. “We have donated over four-and-a-half million dollars to families who have children with leukemia or other forms of cancer and we do that with emotional help and financial help. We’re there when things fall through the cracks. It’s something that is extremely important to my family and I.”

Tom Coughlin continues to evolve, even now, as a coach and a man. Asked about his experience with the Giants in Super Bowl XXV, he says words that apply to anything.

“John Wooden said: ‘You learn as if you’re going to last or live forever.’”

Sound advice.

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