Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning revisit Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII

(NEW YORK)– The New York Giants pulled off what some call the biggest upset in NFL history in 2008 by beating the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

Former coach Tom Coughlin has written a book, A Giant Win, about that game and how he, quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the team overcame the odds.

Coughlin and Manning sat down with ABC News Live’s Trevor Ault to reflect on the game and their time in the NFL.

TREVOR AULT: I got to admit, this is the only interview where I’ve been tempted to be 5 minutes late just to see what would happen.

ELI MANNING: That would have been a bad decision by you. [laughs]

AULT: Your book is full of a ton of good stories. I know you said to Michael Strahan earlier that you believed that this was the best Super Bowl of all time.


AULT: Why do you believe that?

COUGHLIN: Because it’s against an opponent that was the greatest scoring machine in the history of the National Football League. All the statistics, and no one pointed to the fact they were fourth in many categories on the defensive side of the ball. They had great personnel. They had played well together. We had played them in Week 17, [and] we go out, [and] they beat us 38-35. But we led the game and we were in the fourth quarter with the lead. But when we walked off the field that night, we knew we could play with them.

AULT: It’s funny how you started that answer verbatim with something that I wrote down from the book, which is, “We knew they were the greatest scoring machine in NFL history, just like we knew Tom Brady was the best quarterback to ever play the game.” [To Manning:] Does that hurt your feelings?

MANNING: No. The guy’s got 7 Super Bowls, he’s got five or six MVPs; he’s 44, still playing at [an] elite level.

And so, it does not hurt my feelings; and I was just fortunate to be on two great teams… including that 2007 team. I’ve gotten to know Tom over the years and I never say anything to him and I never talk about that game, but he brings it up. That game bothers him badly, because they would go down as the greatest team in the history of the NFL probably, and they can’t say that because we beat them and it hurts them and it bothers them. So I kind of like having that on him.

AULT: You know, 15 years down the line, what makes this Super Bowl and this story worth telling so?

COUGHLIN: Well, to me the greatest, certainly the greatest upset in the history of the Super Bowl. But it’s also the timing. We’ve been through COVID. We’re into a recession.

Anybody that’s down on their luck or had a bad day or whatever can relate to this because it’s about hope and inspiration.

First of all, they wanted to fire the coach. The coach was gone after the [2006] season, and had to battle to get really, quite frankly, to get his job back.

The second half of the season wasn’t easy. And yet we just hung in there and hung in there and made things happen and got ourselves in position.

Between hope, between inspiration and between someone telling you can’t do something, the reality of that you can’t underestimate.

AULT: You talk about in your forward how the two of you rebounded not just from your successes, but also you know what it’s like to have New York want to run you out of town. I would imagine it makes the success all the more sweeter.

MANNING: No doubt. And that year, 2007, we were both on the hot seat.

We started 0-2, but we never got down. We never started making excuses or panicking.

It wasn’t easy, but we hung together. We stuck together as a close team, and it was special. There was something special about the group.

COUGHLIN: It’s hard to describe that feeling.

I mean, I said to John Mara, “John, you know, I’m not big on parades. I don’t know.” He said, “You’re not going to wanna miss this one.” And my God, thank God.

Just two million people hanging out of the buildings and throwing stuff.

AULT: I’m curious because when that happened, it was the story. It was an unbelievable upset. Everyone knew what a huge moment that was 15 years down the line. Do you feel any differently about it? Do you have any new thoughts about it?

COUGHLIN: Not at all. Matter of fact, I was really invigorated by thinking about the game again.

You match up the greatest quarterback in the history of the game; the probably the greatest big game quarterback in the history of the game.

I’m looking down at the field and that third [down], and seven [yards] and three guys have got Eli in their grasp.

He wiggles his way out somehow. And we’ve got David Tyree going to the post.

Next thing I know, he’s launching a ball down the middle of the field. I’m going, “Oh, no, no, don’t overthrow. Don’t overthrow that ball in the middle of the field.”

This kid goes up in the air. He catches the ball in two hands. He’s got a safety, Rodney Harrison, who’s 20 pounds at least heavier than him.

He has the wherewithal to pin the ball to his helmet for the side of his head….[and] he hangs on to the ball on the ground.

AULT: You make the point in your forward about the similarities between the two of you about the importance of attention to detail and the fundamentals. Another similarity that I’ve heard about both of you is that you’re both secretly very funny.

COUGHLIN: Not me. [Eli] is obviously.

MANNING: He is, in the right situation.

Coach has an in-season personality and an off-season personality. And in season, you got to stay away from [when] you see him down the hall. People are ducking in the room, [and] in the bathrooms, and he’s on a mission. Then off season, you see the lighter side. You see his passion for his charity, you see his passion for family and understanding the importance of getting players home to their families and being around your kids.

AULT: But was there ever a moment where it slipped a little bit when you were being the tough coach, but then something was just too funny?

MANNING: I remember at a Saturday practice. So this is a walk through before, you know, before a game and Chris Snee, who was coach’s son-in-law, all of a sudden he’s kind of over there and you see him, he’s like, ‘Hey, Chris, come over here.’ And he looks like he’s kind of yelling at him. He’s got the script and he’s kind of hitting it like he’s yelling out.

I was kind of close enough where I could hear and he says, “Hey, are the grandkids coming over today? What time are they coming?”

He wanted it to look like you’re serious and yelling at him, but you saw the lighter side and knew there was more to this man than just football, football, football.

AULT: When you’re in that year, when you’re in that year coaching, you’ve got Eli, you’ve got my now coworker, Michael Strahan, were you looking at the roster thinking this team has an incredible future in broadcasting?

COUGHLIN: What I was really thinking is these two have a really great sense of humor. They’ll be really good after they get done, after they hang it up.

AULT: Once you’re done with them, then they’ll be good on TV.

COUGHLIN: Yeah, they’ll be able to really exert their personalities once they get away from me.

AULT: Any tough love feedback to improve the Manning cast?

COUGHLIN: No, I couldn’t even advise. Those guys are way, way beyond me.

MANNING: He said, “Just keep making fun of Peyton.”

AULT: I wanted to ask you, coach, before you wrote this book, you wrote an incredible op-ed in The New York Times about being a caretaker for your wife, and it was very powerful. Is there a message that you would just like to give people beyond football?

COUGHLIN: The message was that the role of the caretaker is an all-consuming job. Everything you do, your schedule, your life is around the loved one that you’re taking care of. The message really was, is, too, for people to give themselves a break.

I know for myself, if Judy was having a good day, I was having a good day. If she was having a bad day, I was a failure — What am I doing here?

For 18 months. Judy couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t do anything.

It’s something to behold in terms of what people go through and they need support. They need the support of family, they need supportive friends. And I’m in a position where I could, I hired caregivers, too, because it took two of us. One couldn’t do it. Well, there are people out there that can’t afford that.

And believe me, the burden, the physical and mental burden is extremely difficult to deal with. And that’s why I wrote the article, because I wanted people to pay attention to caregivers and realize what they were going through. And even a pat on the back, [or] drop off a dinner on Saturday night, don’t forget about that.

AULT: Before I let you both go, how do we feel about the Giants this season? Eli?

MANNING: You know, they’re still in control of their own destiny right now.

They’re playing close games and that’s good. Early in the year they’re finding ways to win them; now, late in the year it’s gonna be the same thing: Can they win tight games? Those are the teams that make the playoffs.

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