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4 coaches look back at flop

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Gruden, Phillips, McCarthy and the Cheater

Four NFL coaches look back on flops against Giants in playoffs

Saturday, April 12th 2008, 11:02 PM

From left, Jon Gruden, Wade Phillips, Mike McCarthy and Bill Belichick all felt the power of the Giants in the playoffs.

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Jon Gruden, Wade Phillips and Mike McCarthy were sitting at different tables within a few feet of Tom Coughlin at the NFC coaches breakfast at the recent league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

If they passed Bill Belichick in the hallways, they could commiserate about how they were all unable to stop the Giants' incredible Super Bowl run. The Giants won their four postseason games by a total of 20 points.

It was evident that the sting of losing had not subsided two months later, even if Belichick said, "We've moved on. Everybody is in the '08 season now, including us."

So, I asked the three NFC coaches about the aftershock of being eliminated by the road warrior Giants, who became the first NFC team to win three road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl.

Gruden and the Bucs were up first. He rested his starters for most of the final two games of the season and lost to the inferior 49ers and Panthers, which made Tampa the No. 4 seed, drawing the No. 5 Giants. If the Bucs had won their final two regular-season games, they would jumped over the Seahawks to the No. 3 spot and played the Redskins in the first round.

How long did it take Gruden to get over the playoff loss?

"You never get over those," he said. "I hate to lose in the playoffs. But you got to move on, you got to be resilient in this league. The Giants were rolling on defense the last 7-10 games of the season. As a matter of fact, they were rolling up people pretty good. And (Eli) Manning got hot. He found his niche. (Ahmad) Bradshaw made a lot of big plays. And whenever they needed a big play, Plaxico (Burress) made it. He jumped over guys, he jumped through guys."

Gruden called the Giants' 10 straight road victories "unbelievable. A lot of that has to do with Tom Coughlin, his leadership and the veteran presence they have in their locker room. They like going into your stadium and making you and your fans miserable. They let you know that before the game."

Was he surprised the Giants kept winning after they beat the Bucs?

"No. Hell, no," Gruden said. "The best team always wins in this league. That's my opinion."

Next stop: Dallas.

The Cowboys defeated the Giants twice during the regular season, hanging 76 total points on them. Dallas was 13-3 and the No. 1 seed going into the playoff matchup with the Giants. Phillips says "it took a little while" to get over the 21-17 loss.

"Right now, it's easier to say we had a good season," says Phillips. "At the time we lost, certainly everybody said, ‘Well, the Giants aren't a very good football team and they came in and beat you.' But that didn't prove to be the case."

Did the Giants winning it all show winning in Dallas was no fluke? "It proved they really were a good team and that we got beat by somebody that was the world champs," Phillips said. "We didn't lose to somebody and then they lose the next week."

Next stop: Green Bay. Temperature: -1. Wind chill: -23.

"I knew the Giants were a good football team," says McCarthy. "They didn't need to beat the Patriots for me to realize they were a good football team. It's only natural to look at the Super Bowl and say that should have been us, that could have been us."

Was he surprised by how well the Giants played in frigid Green Bay?

"I was impressed with the way Eli played, especially playing in that type of environment," he said. "I thought he played extremely well."

McCarthy chose not to ice Lawrence Tynes before he made the 47-yard game-winner in OT. Tynes had missed from 43 yards with 6:49 left and after McCarthy called timeout to ice Tynes, he missed from 36 yards on the final play of regulation.

"If I knew he was going to kick it like he did, yeah, I wish I'd have iced him," McCarthy said. "But I don't have any regrets. No disrespect to the kicker, it had nothing to do with the first kicks, he was right at the distance where he needed to nail it. As soon as the ball came off his foot, I knew we were in trouble."

And what about Brett Favre's final pass of his career, the one that was picked off by Corey Webster in overtime, setting up Tynes' heroics? That was all Brett Favre, says McCarthy.

"He missed the throw," he said. "Throwing to Donald (Driver), the ball should have been a little further outside."

Two weeks later, the Giants prevented the Patriots from making history with a 19-0 perfect season in what was arguably the second-greatest Super Bowl upset to the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III. "It's obviously disappointing the way the season ended," Belichick said. "We were 30 seconds away from a championship. That's the NFL. We've been on the other side of that, too. Give the Giants credit. Give Tom credit. They did a great job."

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Too bad the Giants didn't get home field advantage in the first round.

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I love that picture of Gruden, looks like he is crying like a baby. But yeah, Wade Phillips is a clown.

In regards to Gmen beating the Bucs: "No. Hell, no," Gruden said. "The best team always wins in this league. That's my opinion."

Gruden is dumber than a bag of rocks.

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