Different Team, Same Familiar Foe For The Giants
When you think about great rivalries in the NFL, you often think about two teams: the Giants and the Cowboys, the Bears and the Packers, the Seahawks and the 49ers, and the list goes on. However, one of the best rivalries in the league today isn't between two teams. Instead, it's between two head coaches whose battles over the last decade have been about as fierce and dramatic as advertised. Of course, the two head coaches I'm referring to are Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid.
Reid became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 after a particularly disastrous stretch for the Eagles known as "the Ray Rhodes Era". When he arrived in Philadelphia, the Eagles were coming off of a 3-13 season in which they had the worst record in the NFL, and Reid, along with newly minted draft pick Donovan McNabb lining up under center, were supposed to usher in a new era of Eagles football — and they did.
Reid and McNabb would go on to make four consecutive NFC championship game appearances from 2001-2004, losing the first three but finally getting over the hump in 2004 and advancing to Super Bowl XXXIX. 2004 was the year that Coughlin arrived in New York. Like Reid, Coughlin arrived with a brand new quarterback in tow, and as a tandem, they brought with them the promise of a brighter future and a welcome respite from the Jim Fassel-Kerry Collins era. That partnership had begun to grow stale and after a lackluster 4-12 campaign in 2003, it was clear that a change was needed.
While the Giants and Eagles have always been rivals to some degree, having both been members of the NFC East since its inception, the rivalry really began to intensify around the middle of the last decade. In 2006, a Jeff Garcia-led Eagles team eliminated the Giants in the first round of the playoffs with a David Akers field goal as time expired. Although the 8-8 Giants had no business being in the playoffs that year, the 23-20 loss only served to intensify the rivalry.
The next season, Coughlin achieved what Reid had failed to do only a few years prior: defeat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Advantage: Coughlin. But the battle was far from over. In 2008, as the defending champs and coming off of an impressive 12-4 season, the Giants earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and were embarrassed by the Eagles on their home field 23-11 in the divisional round.
Of course, Coughlin would go on to win another Super Bowl against New England while Reid's tenure in Philadelphia sputtered to a disappointing end in 2012 after a 4-12 season. But all the while, despite the Eagles' recent struggles, they have still kept on a firm grip on their rivalry with the Giants and have tortured New York fans again and again with devastating defeats, such as the infamous DeSean Jackson punt return game that will undoubtedly be seared into the minds of every Giants fan for the rest of eternity.
Coughlin and Reid have faced off a total of 18 times in the regular season and twice in the postseason. In those 21 games, Reid has a 12-9 advantage (Coughlin also defeated Reid in 2002 as coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars). The Giants' matchup with Kansas City on Sunday will mark the 20th regular season meeting between Coughlin and Reid — the most of any two active coaches in the league.
The 20th matchup between the two coaches finds them heading in opposite directions, although not exactly in the way many people anticipated before the season began. Reid's Chiefs are one of the league's early surprises at 3-0, and Coughlin's Giants are one of the league's early disappointments at 0-3. Although it certainly can be said that Reid has had the Giants' number over the last few seasons, this game (much like last week's debacle) happens to be a make-or-break game for the New York Giants. Win and they'll be 1-3, which puts them right back in the thick of an underachieving NFC East. A loss and the season is all but over at 0-4. The Giants are hoping that Coughlin can get the better of his rival one last time.