Tom Coughlin Is the Greatest Giants Strength

It's a safe bet that Coughlin isn't participating in the rush to crown the Giants.

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Justin Tuck summed up the thoughts of a lot of observers when he spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon.

"We can definitely make a lot of noise in this run," Tuck said. "We’re only going to go as far as our quarterback and our defensive line take us."

There's been a groundswell of belief that wins over the Jets and Cowboys have positioned the Giants for a run at a Super Bowl title, a feeling that Tuck's teammate Mathias Kiwanuka is pushing in a style Rex Ryan would appreciate.

It all feels a bit premature, especially with three teams that beat the Giants ahead of them in the playoffs and some serious flaws that have hampered the team all season.

But they do have those two things that Tuck mentioned and you can't really scoff at either one. While Eli Manning's presence is negated in some measure by the presence of guys like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, there's no denying that the potential of the Giants pass rush is something that can carry them to a victory on any given Sunday.

As compelling a case as the defensive line makes for the Giants' chances, it isn't the best thing they have going for them. That would be Tom Coughlin.

The public opinion of Coughlin has never really captured the man at the heart of the matter, at least not since he dialed back his Torquemada impression after the 2006 season. While the chattering classes vacillate between throwing Coughlin out the door immediately and clearing space for him on Mount Rushmore, the coach himself never seems to get too up or too down about the situation facing his team.

That stability has been crucial to the team this season, especially after the loss to the Redskins two weeks ago when everyone outside of the team was ready to throw the team in the incinerator. Coughlin went the other way, keeping things positive when they looked bleakest and balancing things out to a more realistic view of the world around the Giants.

You can bet that he's doing the same thing now that everyone wants to turn this Giants team into 2007 2.0 because they beat up on a pair of mediocre teams. It may well be because Coughlin remembers what happened earlier in his tenure when the Giants hit the playoffs as division champions riding high on a hot streak.

That would be 2005, when the Giants won four of their last five and hosted a Wild Card team from the NFC South in a game that looked tailor made for a victory even though the visiting team had a better record. They lost that game 23-0 to the Panthers (even though they got four sacks, as it happens) and started one of the first rushes for Coughlin's head. 

These aren't those Giants and the Falcons aren't the Panthers, but there's more to history than the one time when everything worked out. Coughlin knows that, which is why you can bet he is going to be pushing buttons other than "You guys are the bestest thing in the whole wide world" when he speaks to his team over the next couple of days.

And that wisdom is the thing to like the best about the Giants as they prepare for their playoff opener.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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