It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Tom Coughlin was resurrecting the Boston College football program after the team had slumped at the end of Jack Bicknell’s tenure.
Coughlin was 45 when he arrived at The Heights in 1991, and turned 4-7 into 8-3-1 and 9-3, including a stunning 41-39 road victory over top-ranked Notre Dame.
All of a sudden, after tenures with the Jaguars and now the Giants (two Super Bowl titles), Coughlin is the oldest NFL coach at 66 (he’ll be 67 on Aug. 31) heading into his 10th season in New York.
“I really don’t,” Coughlin said when asked if he feels like the dean of NFL coaches. “I think and feel about the same way as I always have, to be honest with you. I can tell you there are a few differences, but I don’t dwell on them. I still have that routine at 5:20 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, although the cardiovascular part, the running part, thanks to my little shot on the sideline a year ago, is still not as good as it probably should be. I do more elliptical now than running.”
A 5:20 a.m. workout routine?
“I have a strength routine,” Coughlin said. “I’ve always contended that people look at the occupation that we’re in and think, ‘Jeez, all those hours, all that stress.’ But we’re surrounded by the best doctors in the world, we have a physical plant that is as good as any there is, we have a tremendous cardiovascular section of our physical improvement area, we have the machines and the free weights. I just say that it’s also a pretty darn healthy way to go if you watch what you eat and believe in exercise, which I do.”
Coughlin looked around the room at the NFC coaches breakfast in Phoenix last month and felt in good standing.
“I’m younger than most of the guys in this room,” Coughlin said about how he feels. “There is a better way to say that. It’s the experience? My birthdays are right at the beginning of the season, so they don’t count.”
If Coughlin needed an extra boost of energy, he’s gotten it — intellectually, at least — with the changes in the NFC East. Last season, it was the Redskins with Robert Griffin III running the read option. This season, new Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his various spread offense/uptempo schemes have been thrown onto the pile of work for the Giants’ coaching staff.
“Our division now is quite new,” Coughlin said. “We’ve seen it for one year, but this will be another aspect of it. And to be honest with you, it’s kind of exciting and interesting. We don’t know how far, obviously we’ve had a lot of discussions about it, but to what extent [the Eagles will use the Oregon offense].”
Does Coughlin think it will have staying power?
“My position still is it’s going to take five years to evaluate, to see where this stuff goes with the running quarterback,” he said. “Take a look at your salary cap and how much money you have in that position and all the time and effort that goes into preparing that guy and his status within your organization and whether you want to expose him to that [hitting]. It’s still risky business, I don’t care if you hit him in the pocket or he’s running with the ball after he comes out of the pocket or if it’s designed. Some of these kids are great athletes, it’s hard to get a good shot on them, but they are cumulative in our business. We play 16 games.
“Obviously, it’s very effective and has been, but some of these defensive coaches now, they’re not sitting around looking out the window having coffee. They’re into it. You’ve also stimulated an awful lot of that. And that’s a good thing. The energy level on the defense end of the hall in most buildings has been perked up by what’s happened.”
If Coughlin thinks the new offenses need five years to prove the test of time, he might just be there to see the results.
“What’s my health status? What’s my wife’s health status? Those are the kind of things [you think about],” Coughlin said. “I think I’ll be, thank God I’ve had good health and I am in pretty good physical shape. Those kinds of things are factors as well. And I think and believe that that part of the equation will be the same.”
Coughlin’s contract runs through 2014, and the man who has posted six winning seasons (three straight) and gone 83-61 in his nine seasons with the Giants believes he can coach into his 70s.
“What happens right after the season, you’re always, especially if you have a great finish like you did two years ago and it’s, ‘Wow,’ and if you don’t have as good a finish as you want it’s not as easy,” Coughlin said. “But after you give yourself a couple of weeks and the energy level comes back up and some of the fatigue is [gone] and some of your perspective may change a little bit as you look at it. And then the whole deal starts to begin again and you’re reinforced by it and you start to mentally maneuver and you know you’re back in it. I’ve always thought it’s a one-year-at-a-time deal anyway, so it’s nothing different for me than it was five years ago.”
TARGETING A POSITION
Momah tries to land job with these Eagles
Need a player to root for this offseason? Look no further than former Boston College receiver Ifeanyi Momah, who signed with the professional Eagles last week.
Momah, who is now 6 feet 7 inches and 239 pounds, was a moderate recruit in 2007 for Jeff Jagodzinski and played as a true freshman. Because of his size, coaches had a tough time figuring out a position — he lined up at receiver, tight end, and defensive end during his college career. After playing his first two seasons, Momah redshirted in 2009, and then started all 13 games in 2010 with 19 catches for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
It looked as if things were lining up for the very bright and well-liked Momah in 2011 as a senior captain. In the season opener against Northwestern, Momah basically couldn’t be covered at receiver as he posted eight catches for 157 yards. But he blew out his knee in the fourth quarter while playing special teams.
Momah, who would have his petition for a sixth year of eligibility denied by the NCAA, immediately enrolled in the MBA program at BC’s Carroll School of Management. He waited until BC’s Pro Day last month to work out for 12 teams. That’s where Momah caught the eye of the Eagles, and four other teams who expressed interest. From there, Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly and outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern (who was on BC’s staff and helped recruit Momah) aggressively pursued the receiver.
“He was off the charts,” Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman told Eagles.com. “He turned in a great performance and certainly attracted a lot of attention. He ran a 4.40 in the 40. I’ll say this, he is a pleasant surprise. He’s on his way. He is healthy now, and that’s the big thing.
“I’m also realistic here. He hasn’t played in two seasons. He has a lot to learn, but he’s a great character guy, an extremely hard worker, and he deserves to get a chance to see what he can do on the field.”
HE’S COME A LONG WAY
Kiper pleased to report on growth of industry
Love him or hate him, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has been a staple for years as the first draftnik — he started as an 18-year-old in 1978 — as has his annual scouting report.
But as Peter King first reported in Monday Morning Quarterback, this could be the 34th and final year that Kiper publishes his tome.
ESPN would like Kiper in studio more, so he may not have time for the draft report.
Last week, Kiper reflected on how things have changed for him.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “To see it grow from where it was is something I thought could happen. You say, ‘Well, why did you think that when you were 18 years old?’ I thought that because it was the only way to improve your football team.
“The NFL has always been the king of all sports. There was very few trades, free agency didn’t exist. The only way your team changed its makeup from a year to a year and improved was the draft. And people weren’t able to see a lot of these players in the ’70s and ’80s. The only thing about that, you couldn’t see players. Nobody watched players.
“I had to go to two games every Saturday in person, call schools, try to get tape, try to get film. I’ve got a big satellite dish on the roof because I wanted to see as many football games as I could. So you had to work hard; you had to do a lot of research to find out just tackles and sack numbers. I had to call every school. The Internet didn’t exist. I had to call every school to get basic statistics on a player. You know how time-consuming that was?
“So yeah, you’ve got to work hard. I worked 20-hour days back in those years to get that book done. To see it grow to this point is tremendously satisfying for me because it’s shown that back at age 18 I at least had the vision and the foresight to get into something that down the road became as huge as this is.”
Fairbanks was first to show Patriots way
The football world and the Patriots lost an innovator last week when former New England coach Chuck Fairbanks lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 79. Fairbanks and most defensive coaches aren’t mentioned much when it comes to inventing schemes — usually it’s the offensive coaches who get all the publicity — but the 3-4, two-gap scheme developed by Fairbanks and defensive line coach/coordinator Hank Bullough with the Patriots from 1973-78 still resonates. It has always been the preferred scheme for the Bill Parcells tree of coaches, including Bill Belichick. The current Patriots still run much of their base defense in the 3-4, two-gap, which calls for all three down linemen to be responsible for the gap on either side of them. The inside linebackers are responsible for the bubbles created by the guards being uncovered. It’s a bend-but-don’t-break scheme that is at its best against the run. Scheme wasn’t the only reason why Fairbanks — like Parcells later — resuscitated a moribund franchise (the Patriots were 34-73-5 in the eight years before Fairbanks’s arrival; 60-44 from his second season through 1980); it was because of Fairbanks’s eye for talent. Fairbanks drafted such players as John Hannah, Sam Cunningham, Darryl Stingley, Steve Nelson, Russ Francis, Steve Grogan, Mike Haynes, Pete Brock, Tim Fox, Raymond Clayborn, Stanley Morgan, and Mosi Tatupu. Some of those players, who became the core for the 1985 Super Bowl team, came from Fairbanks’s bold trade of quarterback Jim Plunkett to the 49ers in 1976. Many Patriots still believe the ’76 team was the best of the bunch. “That actually should have been the first Patriots team to a win a Super Bowl,” Grogan said. “Outside of a crazy call in Oakland [roughing the passer on Ray Hamilton], we probably would have gone on to win the Super Bowl that year. Pittsburgh was the next opponent and they were all banged up and Minnesota would have been the Super Bowl team and they never could win a Super Bowl. We had a great bunch of young guys that we had gotten from trading Jim Plunkett during the offseason, and a bunch of veterans that were just great leaders on that team, so it was a fun bunch to be around.” Because of Fairbanks, arguably the first great coach in Patriots history.
1. Mostly because it’s a dead time in the NFL for real news, there will be a lot of reporting about the Patriots visiting with or working out certain prospects before the draft. What does it mean? Not much. There’s no correlation between any of those and the Patriots’ interest level. Most visits are to fill in information on underclassmen, injuries, and/or to clarify character issues to finish the franchise’s assessment on a player. That evaluation will be used as a baseline for that player’s career when/if he becomes available later.
2. This is the level of interest the Patriots showed on their first three picks the last two years: Nate Solder (team canceled visit; Dante Scarnecchia worked him out Monday before the draft); Ras-I Dowling (little contact); Shane Vereen (workout with Nick Caserio); Chandler Jones (combine interview); Dont’a Hightower (no contact); Tavon Wilson (private on-campus workout). So, basically, no pattern.
3. I’m looking to see if the Patriots are doing extra work at certain positions. And it sure seems like, from what I’m hearing, that the Patriots are studying the receivers in the draft very closely. Could this be the receiver equivalent of the tight end double-up in 2010? I wouldn’t be surprised.
4. Speaking of people getting worked up for nothing: The annual outrage over prospect opinions put forth by media members. Last week, Pro Football Weekly draft expert Nolan Nawrocki got everyone hot and bothered with his negative assessment (like Cam Newton previously) of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Why do people care what Nawrocki’s comments were? It’s his opinion — take it or leave it if you want — and it has absolutely no influence on Smith’s draft prospects. The only opinions that matter are those of the 32 teams, and they’re not basing their draft boards on anyone’s work but their own.
5. Bills receiver Stevie Johnson tweeted last week, “War is nothing to be played with. I apologize North Korea . . . but if y’all do bomb 1st . . . Bomb Foxboro, Mass. Sincerely, #BillsMafia.” Johnson was obviously joking. Hope no one actually got offended by that. If you did, might be time to go out and enjoy the improving weather.
To top off a terrific week for my alma mater, Rutgers, 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis — a former Scarlet Knight — celebrated his five-year extension with San Francisco by taking a shot at his college coach, Greg Schiano. “You will be a 1 contract and done kinda guy in the NFL — Greg Schiano,” Davis tweeted, before quickly erasing it. Perhaps Schiano made a remark to motivate Davis, who had trouble in that area at Rutgers. Intended or not, it worked. Davis has developed into a top right tackle . . . We’re sure Bill Belichick must have been thrilled to receive the NFL directive that all teams must have cameras in their locker rooms next season. The video will only be shown on stadium scoreboards, part of an effort by the league to make the in-stadium experience better. The league better spell out how the cameras need to be positioned because we could see Belichick pointing one at the wall.
Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.