Tom Coughlin’s Memoir of the New York Giants 2006 Super Bowl Season

Tom Coughlin’s memoir of the New York Giants 2006 season and win over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII could have been a lot more than it is.  Like the public persona of the coach, it lacks a bit of personality and inside information that football fans are looking for.  I did find it worthwhile reading, anyway.

This book functions as a mini autobiography of Coughlin’s coaching career and the high pressure and long hours it requires to be a successful coach in the National Football League.  One of the better features of the book is learning about his coaching pedigree and his discussion of how he had to loosen up a little bit with the New York Giants, who as most recall, were seemingly in near mutiny of Coughlin’s old school rules and discipline.

And while Coughlin does a good job with the above, his recounting of the season and the Giants team is often devoid of personality and inside information about how the team overcame some of the squabbling and questions about leadership to go on their improbable run to a Super Bowl victory.  He certainly plays lip service to the quiet leadership skills of the oft criticized Eli Manning and his rocky but repaired relationship with older players like Michael Strahan, but it more reportorial than emotional engaging.

There also is little about football strategy and X’s and O’s in this book, which is fine as I didn’t expect much.  But for an avid football fan like myself that always adds a great deal to a book about football.

Despite these drawbacks, I am sure New York Giants fans will enjoy this look back at the season from Coughlin’s perspective.  I would not, however, recommend this to the casual football fan.

A Team to Believe In: Our Journey to the Super Bowl Championship

Observations on Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints over Indianapolis Colts 31-17

I know this is coming woefully late but I figure better late than never.

The 2000’s offered up some of the greatest Super Bowl contests in its 40 year history. After having so many blowouts and games that simply did not live up to the hype, the 2000’s saw mostly close contests between evenly matched teams. Super Bowl XLIV looked to be another great contest between two of the most prolific offenses in the league, and it more than lived up to its hype. Despite the final score, the result of a last minute, coffin in the nail touchdown by the Saints, this was a nail biter to the finish.

New Orleans certainly had karmic energy on its side. No matter what team the AFC sent to the Super Bowl, New Orleans was going to be the rooting interest of even the most casual fan, not only because people wanted to see something good happen to the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but its history as a losing but lovable, inept franchise gave it an underdog feel, despite clearly being one of the three best teams in the league this year.

This game was almost evenly played from the start, and but for a few crucial calls by the gutsy Saints coach Sean Peyton and a crucial mistake by Peyton Manning, the Colts mostly outplayed the Saints. The first half featured a quick 10-0 lead by the Colts but the Saints held on for two field goals to make it 10-6 in a surprisingly low scoring first half. Given the way both offenses could move the ball up and down the field, the Colts receiving the ball at the beginning of the second half seemingly gave them a great advantage.

But in what will go down in one of the gutsiest coaching decisions in Super Bowl history, Sean Peyton went for an onside kick at the beginning of the second half to steal a short field and possession from the Colts. Get the ball and score and you put your team in good position to win the game. Don’t get the ball and give Peyton Manning a short field, you may end up the butt of jokes and pariah for the rest of your coaching career. After one of the nastiest scrums I’ve ever witnessed for the ball, the Saints come up with the possession and proceed to score a go ahead touchdown, 13-10 Saints.

The onside kick was the play of the game. It is what really won the game for the Saints and wrested control back away from the Colts as both teams could clear move the ball on each other. After that it was a tit for tat, and again Peyton called for a successful two point conversion after a touchdown leading to a seven point advantage with just over three minutes to go.

I suspect most fans, like me, figured that Peyton Manning and the Colts were on their way to game tying touchdown leaving the Saints a few moments on the clock to get into field goal range for a win. The Colts were easily driving down the field getting close to scoring position. I commented to a guest watching the game with me “wouldn’t a pick six be great right here?” A few moments later, Manning throws just that, an interception returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter, the Saints’ second year cornerback. And that was it.

Did Peyton Manning choke? Manning and his teams, including in college, for whatever reason, seem to always come up short in the big games. It’s amazing that one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all time with one of the most consistently potent offenses year in and year out can’t seem to get over the hump in the playoffs. But I don’t think Manning chocked as much as Porter simply made a great play. Unlike most Patriots fans, I kind felt sorry for Manning.

But the Colts were facing a team that played loose and Sean Peyton coached the game to win, not to lose, which greatly benefited the Saints. So many times, including the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, the coach plays not to lose, and then loses. Hats off the Sean Peyton for an amazing and, I’ll say it a third time, gutsy coaching strategy.

This game will go down as one of the all time greats and firmly place the Colts as a great team that just can’t seal the deal when it counts most.

Drew Brees was named the MVP of the game. He deserved it.

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Offensive Player: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Trace Porter, CB, New Orleans
Offensive Lineman: Jonathan Goodwin, C, New Orleans
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans

Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

If you consider the entire history of the Super Bowl, most of the games have been duds and have not lived up to their hype.  This past decade, however, we have seen some of the most exciting, closely contested games in the marquee matchup in American sports. 

Super Bowl XLIII promises to be one of the best.  Whether it lives up to that hype remains to be seen.  But with the New Orleans Saints versus the Indianapolis Colts you have one of the most exciting matchups ever. 

First, you have the two best teams in the regular season from the AFC and NFC in the game.  That does not happen very often.  Second, you have two of the best quarterbacks in the league with a number of excellent receivers to throw to.  Drew Brees has been fabulous this season, and Peyton Manning as played as well this season as any quarterback I have ever seen in my lifetime. 

Third, with those outstanding quarterbacks you have two of the most prolific offenses in the league.  And fourth,  need I say, you have two defenses that are better than they have been in the past, but are mid-tier NFL defenses that are vulnerable?  It could be one of the highest scoring games in Super Bowl history if these two offenses start sprinting up and down the field on each other.

So picking a winner is very hard.  Will the Saints get to Peyton Manning and batter him like they did Brett Favre in their NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings?  The Colts offense line has played well this year, but they have been known for lapses in the playoffs against aggressive teams like the Greg Williams run Saints. 

Will Dwight Freeney, the pass rushing machine of the Colts be healthy enough to get pressure on Drew Brees, and if he is ineffective, will the rest of the defensive line be effective without his presence?  The Colts have a vulnerable secondary that has been protected by the great offense of the Colts, able to play with leads and play the pass.

It really is a tough game to call.  They are both great teams, the best in the league.

But at the end of the day who am I picking?  Peyton Manning has been a magician this year.  He has avoided the annual choke job the Colts often put up in the playoffs.  I’m going with the best quarterback in the league against the second best quarterback in the league, with vulnerable defenses behind them.

The Colts will win the Super Bowl 42-34.

Tony Dungy: Quiet Strength

22-1Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker

Review by C. Douglas Baker

Tony Dungy is a rather unique and inspiring person. Tony Dungy has been in the National Football League as a coach for many years. As a head coach, he lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the brink of a championship before being let go. He finally got over the hump by winning Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears behind Peyton Manning and the feisty play of strong safety Bob Sanders.

This memoir is about how Coach Dungy applies his Christian faith to not only his coaching in professional football, but to his life off the field as well. His approach to coaching football is certainly unique. He is no Bill Parcells, who often demeans his players, sometimes in public, to motivate them. He is also not the stereotypical coach who screams, yells, and cusses at his players when they make mistakes or in an attempt to fire them up or get the best out them. His style, by all accounts, is a quiet, understated approach that has certainly worked well for him.

Dungy rebuilt the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a lousy team to a championship-caliber team, but could never quite get the wins in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. He was, most would say, unfairly fired by the Buccaneers as they seemed to feel he was not going to get them past the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. One year after he was let go by Tampa Bay, the team won Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders with Jon Gruden as head coach.

After being hired as head coach by the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy quietly built up the defensive side of the ball. The defensive unit had often let the team down and was clearly a weak link. While the Colts defense never became quite as good as his Buccaneers teams, it was just good enough to get a Super Bowl win.

Beyond talking about applying his faith to his role as head coach, Dungy talks about the importance of his family and his community and how he has striven to give all he can to each. And through this memoir, the reader learns a lot about Dungy’s career in the NFL and his teams, so there is plenty of football talk in the book to please fans of the game. He also talks about how his faith helped him cope with the inexplicable suicide of his teenage son.

Overall, this is an excellent book if you are a fan of football or you just want to hear the story of a devoutly religious man and how he applies his faith to everyday life.

Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, and Priorities of a Winning Life

Must Have Resource For Washington Redskins Fans

The Redskins Encyclopedia by Michael Richman

Review by C. Douglas Baker

The Redskins Encyclopedia is definitely a must have for Redskins fans. I am not even a Redskins fan and I found it thoroughly engaging and interesting, which is quite a feat for a text heavy encyclopedic history of a professional football team I don’t even root for.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to a chronological history of the Washington Redskins’ franchise from its origin in 1932 as the Boston Braves through 2006.

The book provides a review of each and every season in Redskins history, and what a history it has been.  You have the 1940’s with Slinging Sammy Baugh and a few World Championships.  You get to relive the topsy-turvy 1970’s under coach George Allen when the team lost Super Bowl VII to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.  You can recapture the glory years under Joe Gibbs and the heyday of the team in the 1980’s, winning three Super Bowls.  And then you can lament, if you are a Redskins fan, the post-Gibbs era and the recent return of Gibbs to save a franchise mired in mediocrity that persists today (and will like to continue to do so under the meddlesome owner Dan Snyder).

During the journey you will meet the great players and characters throughout Redskins history and get an excellent feel for the deep history and historical ebbs and flows of this long tenured franchise.

One of the nice touches of this work is that it breaks Redskins history into eras.  Before each era the book provides introductory insights into the franchise and where it was at and where it was headed before delving into season by season reviews.  This provides context and continuity. 

It also uses text boxes to provide greater detail about seminal Redskins owners, executives, and players. The text boxes provide some excellent information while nicely breaking up the text, making it more reader friendly.

One section of the book consists of mini-biographies of all the great Washington Redskins players, coaches, owners, and executives in the history of the franchise. I thought I would skim through this section quickly but it captured my attention so much I read through the entire section.

The last part of the book provides what most encyclopedias are supposed to provide, all-time team results, records, and other various statistics about the team.

Overall I found this to be a very through and engaging treatment of the history of the Washington Redskins.

 The Redskins Encyclopedia