LANDOVER, Md. – Tom Coughlin will return as coach of the New York Giants next season, and his status wasn't in question at all, according to team co-owner John Mara.
Speaking Sunday after the Giants were assured of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, Mara put an end to any speculation about Coughlin's future.
"There was never any doubt in my mind, never any doubt in (co-owner) Steve Tisch's mind, never any doubt in (general manager) Jerry Reese's mind," Mara said.
New York finished its season Sunday with a 17-14 victory over the Washington Redskins, but the Giants didn't get the help they needed to claim the NFC's remaining wild-card berth.
The Giants went 10-6, making New York and Tampa Bay the first NFC teams since 1991 to miss the playoffs despite double-digit victories. Instead, another team with a 10-6 record — Green Bay — got the conference's last postseason berth.
"You wanted the other part of the package," Coughlin said. "To win the 10 games was nice, but we all wanted to win the 10 games so we could get a chance to play next week as well."
The 64-year-old Coughlin has been the Giants' coach since 2004 and led them to the Super Bowl title at the end of the 2007 season. But he also oversaw late swoons the past two seasons.
The Giants started 2009 at 5-0 before dropping eight of 11 down the stretch, including poor efforts in their final two games to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
This season, New York had a 9-4 record going into an NFC East showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago — then led that game 31-10 with 8 minutes left. But Michael Vick and the Eagles came all the way back to beat the Giants 38-31, with DeSean Jackson scoring a touchdown on a 65-yard punt return on the final play.
The Giants could have clinched a playoff berth last weekend by beating the Packers, but lost 45-17.
"We had put so much into the Philadelphia game, to be honest with you," Coughlin said, "and then to lose it like we did — and actually, we practiced well that next week, but we didn't have the passion and the emotion."
He, for one, showed plenty of both on the sideline Sunday.
After one of Eli Manning's passes went off Mario Manningham's hands and ended up as an interception in the first quarter, Coughlin barked at Manningham as the receiver left the field. The coach also hustled over to slap hands with Manningham after he caught a 92-yard TD pass from Manning about 2½ minutes into the second half.
Coughlin later made his way onto the field for pats on players' backsides after his defense forced one of its four turnovers. And he was cursing after Lawrence Tynes missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt.
After the game, Coughlin was asked whether he had any doubts about whether he would keep his job.
"I have no doubt," he replied, "but we just have to see about that."
Not very long after that, Mara made everything perfectly clear.