Take Your Pick: Tom Coughlin vs. Bill Parcells

  • Frank Santos

I could never imagine trying to be a coach in any major sport. Imagine having to try to motivate young, entitled men to play a game that they are already getting paid millions of dollars to play in the first place. The idea that an athlete needs to be motivated boggles my mind from time to time. You give me $50 million, and I will find motivation, or just buy it.

However, the great coaches know how to, and as a fan of the New York Giants, current coach Tom Coughlin and legendary coach Bill Parcells are two of the best I have had as a fan of any sports team, which begs the question: who is the better coach?

Comparing coaches is a little more difficult than comparing players. It is very much a grey area in terms of the criteria. For my purposes, I have decided on three determining factors: longevity, consistency, and well… winning.

Let’s try and settle the Tom Coughlin vs. Bill Parcells debate.

Note that staying calm was NOT part of the criteria. Photo Credit: Bill Feig/AP

Tom Coughlin: 18 Seasons coached, 158-130, 9 Playoff Appearances, 2 Super Bowl Rings

We should really go back to those old-school uniforms.. Photo Credit: Ed Reinke/AP

 Bill Parcells: 22 Seasons, 172-130, 10 Playoff Appearances, 2 Super Bowl Rings


Both men have an impressive resume in this aspect, especially since both (Parcells more so during the tail end of his career) have to put up with the “WE WANT RESULTS NOW OR YOU’RE FIRED” era. When Parcells first started coaching, you could, y’know, build a team and have an opportunity to coach em’ up. Nowadays, you have approximately 32 seconds to get some wins on the board before some bloggers (probably us…) are starting a Fire You campaign.

However, to be fair, this trend isn’t exactly true in Coughlin’s tenure with the Giants. The rumors part is because well…Tom Coughlin has been fired by the fans 489,389,828,399 times, but Giants management, particularly the Mara’s, have always stuck with Coughlin through all of the teams struggles with him at the helm, and clearly it has paid off in the form of two championships.

You could potentially penalize Parcells for coaching four teams to Coughlin’s two, but Parcells left on his own terms with the teams he coached, and often on top (after a Super Bowl with the Giants, a Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots), instead of waiting until he had worn out his welcome. Parcells longer overall tenure, and proactive mindset gives him the advantage over Coughlin, for now.

Advantage: Parcells


As a Giants fan, you undoubtedly have to pull your hair out at the overall inconsistency of the team during the Tom Coughlin era. On one hand, you watch two amazing Super Bowl runs and can’t help but be impressed. However, you’re always asking yourself “why can’t you guys just do this ALL the time instead of getting shut out by the Seahawks AT HOME? This may be the reason why fans have fired Coughlin 489,389,828,399 times..

However, Coughlin’s resume doesn’t exactly reflect that criticism. In his 18 years being a coach, Coughlin has had 12 seasons with a .500 record or better, and only one true horrific season, a 4-12 season in his first season as a coach with the Jags.

Parcells had a similarly horrific season in his rookie debut with the Giants in 1983, leading them to a 3-12-1 record, but led his teams to 14 .500 or better records in his 22 seasons. On the other hand, from a consistency standpoint, it has to be mentioned that Parcells struggled at the end of his career, and also took a couple of two-year breaks in the “prime” of his career.

Advantage: Tie


Divisional titles is a virtual tie: eight for Parcells, and seven for Coughlin, but here is the difference in my mind. Each man has two Super Bowl rings, but in the Giants Super Bowl wins under Parcells, the Giants were dominant, going 14-2 in the ’86 championship season and 13-3 in the ’90 championship season. Coughlin could attest to this more than most, as he was the Wide Receivers Coach on the 1990 championship team.

On the other hand, Coughlin’s Giants had very underachieving seasons prior to their two Super Bowl runs, going 10-6 in ’07 and 9-7 this year, becoming the first team to win a Super Bowl with less than ten wins.

It is incredibly difficult to accomplish what Parcells did with the Giants in our generation given the parity in the league, but that doesn’t discount how impressive it still is that Parcells managed to accomplish it…twice. Coughlin only has one regular season in which his team had at least 13 wins, coaching the Jags to 14-2 in the ’99 season before their eventual loss to the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.

Advantage: Parcells

The Verdict

Clearly Parcells gets the nod here in my mind, as his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013 would suggest, but its closer than you’d think. So close in fact that Coughlin does have a chance to leapfrog him with another impressive season in the next couple of years. If the Giants make another deep playoff run behind Coughlin, this discussion really becomes a debate, and a legitimate case could seriously be made for Coughlin.

This comparison may still be premature, but not unrealistic.

Frank Santos- Sports-Kings Co-Founder

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Frank Santos

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