New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin’s relationship with longtime University at Albany head coach Bob Ford stretches back 40 years.
Ford says Coughlin’s leadership style hasn’t changed much, with the exception of a few slight adjustments that helped the Giants continue their magnificent run through the NFL playoffs with an upset victory over the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC championship game at frigid Lambeau Field.
“It’s funny. I just sent Tom a note, saying that coaching isn’t all about X’s and O’s, totally,” said Ford, who not only coached against Coughlin, but also worked with him at several football camps through the years.
“I’m extremely happy for Tom. I’m so happy with the way he’s coached this team. I told him that he did a superb job of coaching this year, when you consider everything that went into it,” said Ford.
“There were so many unhappy people on the roster last year. Tom was tight, and he was also so uptight about the way things were going. This year, there was a change in his personality. He laughed and smiled more, and appointed a team council to hear complaints. I think he made some brilliant moves. He’s an excellent coach.”
Ford said that few people realize how good the veteran Coughlin is at managing a football team, and making the right decisions at
“I think he’s highly organized. He’s got a plan of what it takes to be successful on that level, and he stays with that plan,” Ford said. “He’s not upset by some news
media or radio guy who blasts him for something. He’s made an effort to surround himself with good people, staff-wise. He’s a guy who lets his assistants do their thing, but he oversees everything. He’s not a micromanager, but on the other hand, he’s involved with almost everything. If there’s an offensive meeting, he’ll be sitting and watching in the back of the room. The same thing on defense. I watched him all the time when he was here at training camp, and there weren’t many things that escaped his
Ford said that Coughlin’s experience molded him into what he is today.
“He’s definitely conservative. We’re all chiseled by our experiences. Tom’s experience was coming up in the Syracuse system. They were tough, hard-nosed people when he played at Syracuse, and that fashioned his thoughts. He’s not a free-wheeler. He’s not going to stretch the statistics. He pays
attention to them, but he’s not obedient to them.”
Ford, who has observed Coughlin every summer since the Giants began running their summer training camp at UAlbany, said he was as surprised as anyone that the
Giants beat both the Cowboys and the Packers during their playoff run.
“Who would have thought that the Giants could have won the last two games? Even when they got on a run in the playoffs, they were so beat up. And then they’ve got to go up against Tony Romo and the Cowboys and Brett Favre and the Packers. But they played tremendously and magnificently as a team. It’s an old story. The best team doesn’t always win. It’s the team that plays the best that wins. You’ve got to go out, and make plays.”
Ford first saw Coughlin when the Waterloo native was playing for Syracuse. Coughlin was a wingback in the same backfield with Larry Csonka and Floyd Little. As a
senior, he broke the Orange’s single-season pass receiving record.
“The first time I ran into Tom was up at Syracuse, observing spring ball when he was playing there,” Ford said. “The next time I saw him was when we worked a football camp down in Naples, New York. A guy named coach Green ran the camp, and Tom and I were counselors there. I had just been fired at St. Lawrence, and this guy hires me to work the camp. Tom and I had some good times there, along with [former Ithaca coach] Jim Butterfield.”
Ford later connected with Coughlin when Coughlin was a graduate assistant at Syracuse, but the two coaches squared off a few years later when Coughlin became head coach at Division III Rochester Institute of Technology.
“I remember driving to RIT and seeing Tom out there lining the field. In those days, you didn’t have a big staff, and many of the coaches had to do that kind of stuff themselves. Tom was no different. We played four or five times, and I think we won four of them.”
Ford later saw Coughlin when he was coaching at Boston College.
“From there, he really took off, and went up the NFL coaching ladder,” Ford said.
“All I can say is that Tom Coughlin showed what kind of coach he is when he didn’t panic after the Giants lost their first two games by such lopsided scores. They got their butts kicked, but Tom got their defense to swing it around when they made that goal-line stand against Washington.
“At this point, you’ve got to say that Tom Coughlin has done a great job of coaching a team that has had more than its share of injuries. I’m so happy for him, and I wish him the best luck at the Super Bowl.”