New York Giants  

 

Tom Coughlin on a roll, even breaks up the president

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Giants players and coaches were milling around the White House prior to their Super Bowl-celebration ceremony with President Obama, Tom Coughlin had two things on his mind:

"When are we going to see the Wounded Warriors?" Coughlin asked Pat Hanlon, Giants vice president of communications.

And this: "Is General Odierno here yet?"

Back in 2008, Coughlin said he hoped visiting the White House as world champions "was not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." He got that wish and more. As the Giants again paid a visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday afternoon, Coughlin punctuated an extraordinary run the past few weeks that will be difficult for an NFL coach to top. Ever.

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Last month, Coughlin received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the U.S. Army, the third-highest public service honor given to a civilian. His presenter was Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, who is also a Giants fan and a Coughlin friend. There is a picture of Coughlin hugging Odierno on the field in the moments after the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Last week, Coughlin learned that one of his best pass rushers, the previously discontented Osi Umenyiora, would return to the Giants a happy (and motivated) camper on a one-year deal that includes a modest raise and the promise of pending free agency in 2013.

On Tuesday night, Coughlin's long-anticipated contract extension was finalized in the form of a new three-year deal that runs through 2014 and will pay $20 million. Now THAT should take care of Coughlin's annual appearance on the presumed hot seat.

And then came the Friday afternoon capper, when a beaming Coughlin walked stride for stride with President Barack Obama from the Oval Office to the podium on the South Lawn.

"He is a charismatic guy," Coughlin would say later.

And yet -- get this -- it was Coughlin who stole the show. In recounting his team's championship run, Coughlin said: "Offense, defense and special teams doing their jobs, each group having different objectives and motives but playing in harmony for each other, for the good of everyone."

Dramatic pause.

"Wouldn't it be nice if Congress operated the same way?"

Obama loved it. (Later, Coughlin would tell reporters, "We knew that would be pleasing to the president. And to America.")

Nearing the conclusion of his remarks, in referencing his desire to return to celebrate future world titles, Coughlin addressed Obama.

"We both have a goal to get back here next year," Coughlin said, adding, "We have a lot of work to do." (Behind Coughlin, co-owner John Mara and his mother, Ann, as well as general manager Jerry Reese laughed heartily. None knew in advance what the coach would say.)

Earlier in the afternoon, Coughlin thanked the Wounded Warriors in private and then from the podium referred to them and their military brethren as "the real heroes." It has been in these moments, when praising the military or referring to the United States as "the greatest country in the history of the world," -- as he also did Friday -- that Coughlin always has seemed most at ease. Those are his genuine feelings and he shares them often.

But, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, Coughlin at 65 seems as invigorated as a man half his age. And as comfortable as ever in a job he loves.

There are two reasons Justin Tuck says he has given his coach a new nickname: "Cheese." One is the contract. Dollars, especially when they include eight figures, will get players' attention. The other? Coughlin's ever-present smile. The one he has worn almost constantly since the Super Bowl.

As he left the president and the South Lawn, Coughlin stopped to speak to reporters. He talked about the military, about his clever comments, about the challenge of reaching another Super Bowl. And when he was finished, Coughlin turned and walked toward his wife Judy, whose sunny yellow cardigan matched the picturesque June afternoon.

Arm in arm, they walked toward the team buses. Both were smiling.

Follow Kimberly Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports

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