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When Tom Coughlin fell on his sword after the 2015 season, the Giants had missed the playoffs for four straight years and had just posted a third consecutive losing season. But since forcing Coughlin into retirement, things have gotten much worse.

The Giants have posted five straight losing seasons and are on their fourth head coach in seven years post-Coughlin. The fluke wild card bid in Ben McAdoo’s first season aside, they have been one of the NFL’s worst teams. They’ve won five or fewer games four times in that span after Coughlin, despite his woes at the end, never failed to win fewer than six games during his tenure.

Which begs the question — as posed to Mike Francesa by a listener on his latest BetRivers podcast — would the Giants have avoided this full-on collapse had they let Coughlin keep his job?

The WFAN legend is conflicted.

“The Giants made every wrong move they could possibly make,” Francesa said.


(Former general manager Dave) Gettleman was a disaster. The coaches they brought in, disasters. Decisions they made with their roster, disasters.

“But if you’re asking me if they would have had all these losing seasons, all these terrible seasons, one after the other, with Tom Coughlin? No, I believe Tom Coughlin would have fought back out of that and created some winning teams. Because he’s that good a coach. But I don’t think he had that in him any more. Because of his age, I thought it was time for a move. And I can’t back away from that now just because the Giants screwed it up. The Giants screwed it up. And I think there is more to that story than has ever been discussed.”

Do tell.

“I think the fact this generation of Mara and Tisch cannot get on the same page the way the old guys did,” Francesa said, “has hurt the franchise in their decision-making and on the field.”

The Coughlin question is a complicated one.

Francesa is right that it certainly felt at the time like Coughlin and the Giants needed to move on. He was 69 at the end of the 2015 season and would have been 70 in Week 1 of the 2016 season. While he never lost the team in his final year, there certainly was some light dysfunction afoot — most notably his inability to control Odell Beckham Jr. during the infamous Josh Norman game. Coughlin also made some curious coaching moves that year, although some of them were attributable to compensating for a disaster of a defense.

But it is fair to wonder what Coughlin could have done had he been allowed to stick around for former general manager Jerry Reese’s 2016 free agency spending spree. Would Coughlin have been able to replicate McAdoo’s 11-5 finish and playoff appearance? Probably. And even if the Giants had still disappointed in 2017 — which they probably would have, that team always had deficiencies — there is a good chance Coughlin would have prevented the locker room meltdown that engulfed McAdoo.

That alone probably saves Reese’s job. Gettleman never gets hired. And everything is different. So our answer to the question: It would be revisionist history to say the Giants should have kept Coughlin. But had they, and had he even able to make that playoff appearance in 2016, there is a reasonable chance things would never gotten as bad as they have.

“I thought it was time for Tom to go, and I love Tom personally,” Francesa said. “Love him. I have a great relationship with him, and I always have. And I love him. He’s a better man than he is a coach, and he’s a great coach. And he’s a better person. He’s one of the finest people you’ll ever find being a head coach. That’s how good of a person he is. He’s a good man, Tom Coughlin.”

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.