In an interview with the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio New York yesterday, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin discussed an array of topics, including his relationship with future Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan and the traits of his Super Bowling-winning team from 2011.
Coughlin, who has had a shaky relationship with Strahan at times, had this to say about his former player.
"We had two very strong-willed people who eventually came to the realization we’re both after the same thing. And some of the things that he accused me of being — ridiculous and idiotic — in the very beginning, he started to say, ‘Hmm.’ … The way that we conducted our business started to sink in for him and it started to make sense."
"He practiced as hard as he could, he ran full speed every day, he was good in meetings, he was great in the defensive line room, he was great as a team captain. He had a magnetic personality, he was a natural born leader. He had played forever and played well, not just against the pass but against the run as well, so what’s not to like?"
In 2011, Coughlin's Giants beat the Patriots for a second time. Eli Manning played at an elite level, while the defense once again thrived behind a relentless pass rush. After a disappointing season which concluded without a playoff appearance this year, Coughlin reflected about his '11 squad.
"They were all in. They were probably the best I’ve ever seen. They focused, they paid attention, they listened, they responded, they practiced well. They used to bust my chops about, ‘OK, you’ve gotta be on the line at 2:37.’ They were out there at 2:20 ready to go. One of those type of things. When we got to Indianapolis it was unbelievable the way they functioned and worked and focused and stayed zoomed in on the game. So it was a very, very special team."Of course, Coughlin was pressed about some of the Giants off-season issues, including dishing out deals to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, and Osi Umenyiora's future with the team.
"But here in this day and age with this group of kids, I never felt closer to ‘em. And so it came to me that that’s what was represented. And I talked about the whole coaching staff loved them for the way that they put their backs up against the wall and came out and performed week in and week out. And I said, ‘I’m man enough to tell you I love you.’”
Coughlin said he expects Nicks, who had a knee scope earlier in the off-season, to be "the guy he was two years ago."
As for Cruz, he said, "He’s a great kid, he’s local. It’s been a marvelous thing to see this story evolve here as a New York Giant. I don’t wanna see it change and I’m hoping that his people feel the same way.”
It is not expected that Umenyiora will be a member of Big Blue next season. Like the team's decision to release Ahmad Bradshaw, Coughlin explained it's a part of the business of football.
“Osi’s a free agent. I’m sure he’s gonna try the market first. I love the guy. He’s come back and played for us and played hard and played through some things as well. He’s one of the outstanding players that have been in our program for the last few years. But it’ll be a business decision for Osi.”Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs