It is both accurate and insufficient to describe New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin as old-fashioned. Coughlin is one of the most notoriously hard-assed figures in a sport defined by willful, backwards-looking hard-assery. Reports periodically surface that Coughlin has mellowed some in recent years: he reportedly no longer demands that players arrive at least three hours early for positional meetings, for instance, and in 2011 he stopped kicking off each practice with with a full Catholic Mass, in Latin. Tentatively, and with the seething frustration that has long been his stylistic signature, Coughlin is entering the modern world.
This is not to say that Coughlin understands or embraces the trappings of contemporary life, exactly, although that is at least a little bit true of everyone else alive at this moment. But the 68-year-old Coughlin—who has been coaching football for a living since 1984, when he was the receivers coach on a Philadelphia Eagles team quarterbacked by Ron Jaworski—has at least acknowledged that the world of 2015 exists. More than that, he is attempting to live in it, as opposed to the Permanent 1959 that he and most of his generation's coaching peers inhabit. It has, Coughlin admitted to reporters on Wednesday, not been the easiest transition for him.
But learning how to use various technological devices is one thing. Coughlin's job is to win football games, and for that he will need to work with and understand the young football players in his charge. With that in mind, Coughlin told the assembled media, he commissioned a sort of sociological study dedicated to tracking the behaviors, preferences, and various impacted weirdnesses of the contemporary young.
After filing a FOIA request with the New York Giants, we received a heavily redacted transcript of Coughlin's study of millennials. While the team redacted much of the information for reasons having to do with security and privacy, what remains is still fascinating and rich.
The setting for Coughlin's surveys was the Marriott near Giants stadium, and Coughlin and the Giants' team sociologist met with young players for a series of "informal breakfast chats" that began at precisely 5:15am, over a period of months. The players' responses were redacted, as were their breakfast orders. (Coughlin's traditional breakfast—"unflavored" bread, six ounces of malt vinegar, and a spoonful of snow-melting rock salt—is also redacted, although his breakfast preferences have been public since his infamously testy 2009 interview with Bon Appetit.)
While it's hard to see how the study could have generated much in the way of useful scientific conclusions for the Giants, Coughlin's queries offer a revealing view of a coach trying to understand what makes today's football players different. What follows is a selection of Coughlin's questions from these meetings. It should be interesting to see how he puts this new knowledge to work on the field next season.
- "Do you think that they are making the orange juice too strong these days? I know this is sort of off-topic but it just seems like the juice has been very strong at least since Obama was elected."
- "Can you set up my printer? The guy at Best Buy said that it would go with my computer but the thing doesn't go in right. The, you know, the wire. It doesn't go in and so I can't print the emails."
- "When you get a wordgram, or a text message you probably call it, on your phone, and the person says "LMAO," is that like a Communist thing? Like Mao? Because that is in very poor taste. Why not something like LOL—like an offensive lineman? Those guys work hard and never get the credit."
- "What's up with the crazy names? I met a kid the other day, I swear he was named 'Kurt.' What the hell kind of name is that? You ever hear of a name like that?"
- "When I was your age, the popular thing was sitting in the dark and screaming into a pillow for 45 straight minutes. Do young people still do that, or is it all CandyCrush now?"
- "What kind of hairshirts are popular among people of your generation?"
- "I was taught that a respectable man shaves his face three times a day. So what is this with the beards, now? You all want to look like Donald Sutherland or what?"
- "The applications on your phone, do they help you remain angry all day long? If not, why do you have them?"
- "All the kids are eating these PowerBars. I guess my question is what's wrong with a good old-fashioned onion-and-vinegar sandwich?"
- "You know when you see a tweet and someone puts five of those crying emojis on it and writes "WHO DID THIS FAM" or something like that and then manually retweets it? What is the purpose of that?"
- "So, regarding the internet: do they still have it on computers, or does it all go into the phones, now?"
- "A question: what is the right time to arrive at a meeting scheduled to start at 7:45am? I will give you one hint: the answer is not 7:45am."
- Played a recording of Young Thug's rapping on "Lifestyle" for players and then angrily asked, "What is this shit?"