Forget Matt Dodge, Coughlin needs to go

It was a choke-job of colossal proportions and it made the original “Miracle at the Meadowlands” look like child’s play.

The New York Giants blew a 21-point fourth quarter lead to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday at Meadowlands Stadium, losing 38-31 to the Philadelphia Eagles when DeSean Jackson returned a punt from Matt Dodge 65 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. Dodge had been instructed to punt the ball out of bounds, but instead kicked a poor, line-drive punt at Jackson.

In reality this punt debacle was just icing on the meltdown cake and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin deserves a lot of the blame. With 8:17 left in the game, Eli Manning threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss.  After Lawrence Tynes converted the extra point, the Giants had a commanding 31-10 lead.  Their sideline seemed to be a little too cheerful to yours truly with that much time left on the clock.

Less than a minute later, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek over the middle for a 65-yard touchdown, thanks in part to blunders in the Giants secondary.  David Akers then executed a perfect onside kick, and the Eagles got the ball back at their own 44 yard line.  Mind you, the Giants “hands team” was nowhere to be found.  Make a note of this.

Vick scrambled for 35 yards, and then ran untouched for a 4-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal.  The Eagles were within 7 with 5:28 left, and the Giants defense was suddenly tired and a shadow of its earlier self.  Make yet another note.

After some ineffective runs by Ahmad Bradshaw and an incomplete pass, the Giants punted back to Philadelphia with just over three minutes to go.  This note thing is getting tiring.

Vick then rushed two times for 55 yards, toying with New York’s defense as if it was sandlot touch football.  He capped the drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin.  Is this game really headed to overtime?

Manning followed up with two incompletions and a sack, and then Dodge lined up for his infamous punt.  Meanwhile, the Matt Dodge who does NOT punt for a living suddenly was about to get bombarded on Twitter.

As a result, the Giants went from possibly being in the drivers’ seat for the NFC East title and a possible No. 2 seed (and first-round bye).  Now they have to fight it out for a Wild Card berth, a road that goes through frigid Green Bay next week when they face the playoff-hopeful Packers.

Let’s recap: no “hands team,” no adjustment in defensive strategy, no clock-chewing drives by the offense.  And where was the punt coverage on Jackson’s return?  Last I checked, there are ten other guys that can make tackles.  And in case you missed it, this is a team that has struggled with mental errors and costly turnovers all season.

While Dodge definitely deserves blame, he is a rookie punter that has struggled all season.  The team considered cutting g him in Week 3, but did not do so.  Yet another organizational blunder, and blame should land directly on the coach’s desk.  As my colleague Paula Duffy pointed out, Coughlin went overboard by dressing-down Dodge on the field immediately after the game.  Yes, Dodge deserved a tongue-lashing, but not in front of 81,223 in attendance, as well as millions more watching on Fox.

The New York media is going to have a feeding frenzy with this story, and it’s already started with rumors that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has interest in returning to coaching and the Giants are at the top of his short wish list that is also said to include Miami and Houston. Coughlin has just one year remaining on his deal, and a tailspin down the stretch and/or early playoff exit could very well cost him his job.  Giants owner John Mara later called the Cowher rumors “ridiculous,” but what else could he say with his team still in the playoff hunt?

For those of you too young to remember, the fallout from the original “Miracle” was wide-ranging and actually triggered a turn-around for the Giants.  They fired head coach John McVay and hired George Young as general manager.  He is the same man who drafted the likes of Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor, Mark Bavaro, Joe Morris and Carl Banks, and also promoted a little-known defensive coordinator named Bill Parcells to head coach in 1983.  Twelve years after Young’s hiring, the Giants hoisted their second Lombardi trophy.

Perhaps a similar house-cleaning is in order.

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

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