The New York Giants have enjoyed a number of great moments over the course of their history. Since the franchise’s inception in 1925, the team has won eight NFL championships, four of which have come during the Super Bowl era.
It’s no coincidence that much of this success has come while the Giants were being helmed by a respected head coach. In fact, each of the franchise’s eight championship seasons have occurred during the tenure of one of the coaches below. Looking back in chronological order on the long history of the New York Giants, let’s learn more about their five greatest coaches.
Steve Owen (1930–1953)
Steve Owen spent 23 full seasons as the Giants’ head coach, a tenure that is longer than any in franchise history. His 153 wins during this time are more than that of any other Giants head coach.
Owen’s two biggest victories were in title games. The first was the legendary Sneakers Game in which the Giants beat the defending champion Chicago Bears after changing into basketball shoes at halftime; the second came against the four-time champion Green Bay Packers.
Owen also led the Giants to the championship game an additional six times. In fact, over a nine-year stretch from 1933 to 1941, the Giants reached the title game six times, winning in 1934 and 1938. Owen’s accomplishments in New York resulted in his being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first Giants coach to receive this honor.
Jim Lee Howell (1954–1960)
Despite Owen’s success, his tenure in New York didn’t end well. After the team went 3–9 in his final season, he departed. Taking his place was Jim Lee Howell.
Howell helped to improve the team’s fortunes in his first season, leading the Giants to a 7–5 record. He followed that up with a 6–5–1 season in 1955. It was in Howell’s third year, however, that he began making a name for himself as one of the great Giants coaches.
The Giants finished the 1956 regular season 8–3–1, good enough for first in their division. Their one tie came against the Chicago Bears, who as Western Division champions met them in the championship game. Despite being an underdog, New York dominated the Bears, winning 47–7.
Howell and the Giants followed up the title-winning season by reaching the NFL Championship Game in two of the next three seasons. Howell finished 53–27–4 as the Giants head coach and is credited for the returning the team to its winning ways.
Bill Parcells (1983–1990)
Bill Parcells grew up in New Jersey and, as a boy, dreamed of coaching the Giants. In 1983, he got his chance when New York hired him as the head coach.
Parcells inherited the team at a time when the franchise was in the midst of a long run of futility. The Giants had reached the postseason only once in the previous 19 years and had experienced consecutive losing seasons under its previous coach. After a difficult 3–12–1 first season during which he came close to losing his dream job, Parcells turned the team around in his second year, reaching the playoffs that season and in five of the next seven.
Parcells and the Giants won the Super Bowl in two of those years, 1986 and 1990. The second of those titles came in the famous Wide Right game where Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood just barely missed what would have been a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. Parcells completed his tenure with a 77–49–1 record and is considered not just one of the greatest Giants coaches ever but one of the best in all of NFL history.
Jim Fassel (1997–2003)
Jim Fassel spent seven years as Giants head coach, compiling a 58–53–1 record along with two postseason victories. The only coach on this list not to win an NFL championship, he nonetheless took the Giants to the 2000 Super Bowl.
Fassel started his tenure in New York strong, finishing his first regular season with a 10–5–1 record. This was good enough for a division title, and Fassel himself won the NFL’s Coach of the Year honor. He subsequently guided the team to another division title in 2000 and a postseason appearance in 2002.
Sadly, Fassel is perhaps best known for the lopsided defeats that closed each of New York’s three postseason trips on his watch. Still, in light of the Giants’ recent revolving door of coaches, Fassel’s accomplishments have aged well. For that, he’s earned a place among the greatest Giants coaches.
Tom Coughlin (2004–2015)
Tom Coughlin won the 1986 Super Bowl as an assistant coach to Bill Parcells before returning to the team in 2003 to assume the top job. Like Parcells, Coughlin inherited a losing team and proceeded to have a difficult first season. The parallels between the two Giants coaching greats don’t end there, however.
Similar to his former boss, Coughlin made the playoffs in each of his next two seasons before finally breaking through with a Super Bowl in his fourth year. Just as Parcells did, he took home a second Super Bowl in his eighth season as Giants head coach.
Altogether, Coughlin finished his 12-year tenure with a 110–93 record. This includes an 8–3 tally in the postseason, the same as Parcells. Beyond Coughlin’s success, the way in which the Giants won on his watch was memorable. His 2007 team’s improbable run to the Super Bowl, where New York dramatically defeated the then-undefeated New England Patriots, is something Giants fans will always cherish.