Matt Ehalt | Special to ESPNNewYork.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants owner John Mara said he would like to have head coach Tom Coughlin back in 2014, but nothing has been finalized yet.
“We still have every confidence in him,” Mara said. “We do want him back as our coach in 2014.”
Coughlin said Monday he wants to coach next year, and general manager Jerry Reese also wants Coughlin to return.
Everybody wants to know what’s next for me. I hope it’s coaching the New York Giants. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about me, and my circumstance, and my situation, it’s rather our team. Where we’re going and what direction we’re in.
— Giants coach Tom Coughlin
“Everybody wants to know what’s next for me. I hope it’s coaching the New York Giants,” Coughlin said. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about me, and my circumstance, and my situation, it’s rather our team. Where we’re going and what direction we’re in.”
Coughlin has one year remaining on his deal, and the Giants prefer not to let their coaches have lame-duck status entering the final year of the contracts. Mara, however, did not say that the Giants will definitely avoid that scenario. Coughlin turns 68 next year.
“That’s a discussion for later,” Mara said. “That’s been offered in the past, there’s no secret. Whether it continues or not has yet to be decided.”
A decision has also yet to been made on the status of the team’s assistant coaches, specifically offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. Mara said that will be one of the main topics this offseason, and the Giants will have evaluations later this week. The owner added that there are changes needed within the organization, but it’s not known yet whether that means infusing new blood into the coaching staff.
Coughlin, for his part, championed for his coaches. Gilbride and Quinn have been the coordinators since 2007, while Fewell joined the staff in 2010. All three have at least one Super Bowl with the team.
“I have great confidence in this group of men that we’ve had here as a coaching staff,” Coughlin said. “I believe in them very strongly.”
With their 7-9 season, the Giants have now missed the playoffs in four of the past five years, including the last two. Mara said he still has faith in Reese, who has won two titles.
“I firmly believe he is the right guy going forward. I’ve spent enough time around him to know that he is the right guy,” Mara said. “He is not afraid to make tough decisions and he knows what the risks are and sometimes you have to take those calculated risks. Very confident guy, nobody works harder than he does, I still trust his evaluation skills. I love the way he deals with players. Very honest and direct with them. He’s got a very good relationship with Tom. I am convinced he is the right guy leading us forward.”
Mara called this season “as disappointing as any in my memory.” He acknowledged how he said before the season that he thought this team had as deep of a roster as any recent Giants’ team but they instead started 0-6 and finished below .500 for the first time since 2004.
In what can’t be a good sign for Gilbride, Mara particularly noted the offense’s struggles this year. After usually having a top-10 offense with Gilbride, the Giants ranked 28th in points this year. Mara said improving the offensive line, which struggled all season, will the No. 1 priority.
“I think our offense is broken right now,” Mara said. “We need to fix that. We need to make some improvements on defense too, but obviously on the offensive side of the ball we got to improve. We can’t go into next season with the same personnel.”
Mara also questioned the use of players on offense, specifically third-year receiver Jerrel Jernigan. Jernigan barely had seen the field before Victor Cruz was lost for the season on Dec. 15, but he shined once Cruz went down, including a two-touchdown performance in Sunday’s season-ending, 20-6 victory over the Redskins.
“I’m not sure why it took us three years to find out that Jerrel Jernigan could play,” Mara said. “We finally put him in the game and he starts making plays.”
Reese said that quarterback Eli Manning needs to play better, as he threw a career-high 27 interceptions, and Mara agreed that Manning did not have a good year. Manning has two years left on his deal, both at high cap hits, and Mara said the team can discuss a contract extension for Manning to lower his cap hit, which could allow the Giants to be more aggressive in free agency if they wanted to do so.
“I still have every confidence in him,” Mara said. “He’s still the face of the franchise and we need to help him. We need to give him some better tools and do a better job around him next year.”
Reese said there were personnel issues with the team, and Mara furthered that point by pointing to the lack of production from recent drafts. The Giants are a team that likes to develop through the draft, and have a strong track record of doing so, but they haven’t drafted many starters in their past three drafts.
Mara acknowledged that injuries have played a part, such as former safety Kenny Phillips, whose career was derailed with knee injuries, but the Giants have taken chances and missed. One notable example is 2011 second-rounder Marvin Austin, who isn’t with the team anymore.
The owner stressed he has confidence in the team’s scouts.
“For you to be successful in this league, you have to do a good job in the draft, especially in those middle-round picks,” Mara said. “There’s no question over the last few years we’ve missed on a few of them. For whatever reason.”