The Tom Coughlin All-Stars
by Tom Gower
Two years ago, we started a series on "coaching all-stars," the best player-seasons in the history of some of the NFL's best coaches. With the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl, it seemed like a fun idea to run the same exercise with Tom Coughlin, and mix together the best of his Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars teams.
Eli Manning or Mark Brunell? Mark Brunell or Eli Manning? Brunell's best season was probably 1997, when he ranked fifth in the league in passing DVOA and second in DYAR, and added 90 rushing DYAR. Manning was only
At wide receiver, it's "pick Jimmy Smith's best season," then find a second candidate. The only non-Smith Pro Bowl seasons are Keenan McCardell in 1996 and Steve Smith in 2009, but I'll instead go with McCardell's 1997 season, when he finished third in the league in DYAR.
Before sitting down to write this, I thought Jeremy Shockey would be a lock at tight end. Kyle Brady was a better blocker, though, and had a shockingly efficient and productive year as a receiver in 2000. The last position among the skill players is the hardest to fill. Coughlin has never had particularly noteworthy fullbacks. Is there a big difference between Madison Hedgecock, Jim Finn, and Daimon Shelton? With no standout second tight end or fullback, I'll honor Victor Cruz for finishing fourth in DYAR this year and add him as a slot receiver.
As Terrell Davis is to running backs and Kurt Warner is to quarterbacks, Tony Boselli is to left tackles: a short career for the position, but quite dominant when he was healthy and at his best. He was All-Pro from 1997 through 1999. O'Hara and Snee were both Pro Bowlers from 2008 through 2010, and Snee was an All-Pro in 2008.
Right tackle and left guard were harder. Searcy is the only Pro Bowl right tackle Coughlin has had, back when the Pro Bowl used to occasionally recognize there were tackles who did not play left tackle. While the Jaguars were unimpressive by Adjusted Line Yards to the right that year, I’ll go with him over Kareem McKenzie. Coughlin has never had a Pro Bowl left guard. Meester spent his first three seasons there, moving to center in 2003. 2002 was probably Fred Taylor's most prolific rushing season, and the Jaguars were excellent between the tackles that year.
DE: Justin Tuck, 2008 Giants
DT: Gary Walker, 2001 Jaguars
DT: Fred Robbins, 2008 Giants
DE: Michael Strahan, 2005 Giants
OLB: Kevin Hardy, 1999 Jaguars
MLB: Antonio Pierce, 2006 Giants
OLB: Michael Boley, 2010 Giants
Defensive end is loaded. Osi Umenyiora made the All-Pro team over Strahan in 2005, but Strahan made his life easier. Jason Pierre-Paul's 2011 season and Tony Brackens in 1999 would probably make it for many coaches. At defensive tackle, Walker was the only Pro Bowler Coughlin had, and also made Dr. Z's All-Pro team that year. Robbins was another player who did not earn many accolades but had a long and productive career. John Henderson and Marcus Stroud were just beginning their careers in Coughlin's final season coaching the Jaguars.
Dom Capers was the Jaguars' defensive coordinator under Coughlin in 1999-2000, the only two seasons Coughlin's teams have run something other than a pure 4-3. Hardy made the All-Pro team with 10.5 sacks as a rush-backer in Capers' hybrid. Boley was probably the best of an unimpressive lot of other candidates. I was tempted to name Danny Clark, the only player to start for Coughlin in both Jacksonville and New Jersey.
Coughlin has rarely had standout players in the secondary, and it has shown in his teams' DVOA ratings. 1999 was the only season in his tenure the Jaguars were above average in passing defense DVOA. The Giants have been better, but 2010 is still the only year they cracked the top ten. Our game charting project ranked Webster among the league's top cornerbacks in 2008. Beasley had six interceptions in 1999, and made the Jaguars' 15th anniversary team.
Free safety is the only spot in the secondary where Coughlin has had a Pro Bowler, with Rolle and Carnell Lake in 1999 the honorees. Lake was at the end of a long career and had declined from his peak with the Steelers, so Rolle is my pick. The candidates at strong safety were Phillips, Gibril Wilson, and Donovin Darius. Neither Wilson nor Darius stood out against the pass while they played for Coughlin.
Like Mike Vanderjagt, Mike Hollis earned plaudits for his accuracy largely by attempting and making mostly not very difficult kicks. 2000 was the exception to that rule, as he hit 10 of 11 attempts from 40 yards and beyond and made 24 of 26 attempts overall.
Coughlin has generally had very good punting units. Barker and Chris Hanson of Keep Chopping Wood fame had a number of good years for the Jaguars, while Jeff Feagles made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and Steve Weatherford had an excellent year this year. Ultimately, I went with Barker the year after he made the All-Pro team. He had an excellent 38.5 yards net average per punt in 1998 and the Jaguars ranked highly in our special teams ratings. Based on our numbers, that value was entirely Barker; the Jaguars were worse than expected preventing returns given the length of Barker's punts.
Coughlin's teams have never had a return superstar. Barlow's 12.9 yards per punt return and 24.9 yards per kickoff return came out best by our numbers.
Coughlin's Jaguars tenure followed a fairly straightforward path, building to a peak in the 1999 season, which is well-represented here, and declining after that. That excellent team could not beat their division rivals in Tennessee in any of their three chances, and thus is considered a massive disappointment despite once winning a playoff game 62-7. The Giants have not followed nearly as neat a path, and thus you see players represented from more across the span of his tenure. Defensive end and wide receiver are probably the two strongest positions on the Coughlin All-Stars, while the defensive back seven seems pretty weak.
If you would like to suggest other coaches for "all-star" treatment, feel free to do so in the comments. This type of exercise works best with coaches who spent a few years with at least two different teams.
Previous coaching all-star teams: