Tiki Barber did some reminiscing on The Morning Show on Thursday, flashing back to November 2006. Barber was in his final season, and the New York Giants had just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 26-10, on Monday Night Football.
It wasn’t just the loss that angered Barber; it was the way the game was lost. Barber had just 10 carries for 27 yards. Eli Manning, meanwhile, was 19-of-41 for 230 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Eli had a bad day,” Barber said.
When media asked Barber about the game, he didn’t hold back. His message was simple: This isn’t rocket science. We’re a good running team. We’ve got to hand the ball off. Even in situations when we’re behind, we’ve got to keep handing the ball off.
“I just kind of told the truth,” Barber said.
Needless to say, the media had a field day with it, saying that Barber criticized the offense and the team in general.
The next day, Barber was in a meeting room watching tape when all of a sudden, head coach Tom Coughlin bursts through the door, throws a stack of newspapers in Barber’s face and yells, in not-so-G-rated terms, “What is this about?”
There were expletives. Many of them. Things escalated quickly. “Did you drop an F-bomb,” Barber was asked.
“A? A?” Barber said in disbelief. “Try like a thousand.”
Barber said he’s prone to using foul language when he’s irate.
“(But) it’s in an intellectual fashion,” he said, laughing, “so it’s a complicated argument you’re listening to.”
“Long story short,” he continued, “we ended up yelling at each other for 40 minutes. Running backs left, the (offensive) linemen were next door, defensive linemen were on the other side. And at the end, I said, ‘You know what? I’m out of here.’”
So Barber leaves, but before he can exit the stadium, Coughlin catches him and asks if they’re okay, if they’re good.
“Coach, as long as you want to win – because this is my last year; I’m not coming back – we’re good,” Barber said. “I want to win. That’s all I care about.”
The Giants lost their next two games, both by a field goal. Including the loss to Jacksonville, the Giants lost five of their final seven games that season. They still made the playoffs but wound up losing a Wild Card game to Philadelphia, 23-20.
Barber retired, and the Giants won the Super Bowl the very next year.
Barber doesn’t know if Coughlin respected him more or less after the exchange, but he felt it needed to happen.
“I don’t say things without thinking about them,” Barber said. “I’m introspective and I have reasons for saying things. But people don’t want to see that. They read what they read in the paper. They read what someone tells them to think as opposed to digging into the thought process of me as an individual or how I see the team or what I think is best for the team.
“I wasn’t ever a guy who was just playing to collect the paycheck. I left it on the field. I always did. And you can watch every game I ever played, and you can’t say that I didn’t.”
Barber simply wasn’t a fan of Coughlin’s “You’re going to do this, and you’re going to do it because I said so” attitude.
“On game day, I never had a problem with Coach Coughlin,” Barber said. “But personally, we did. We just didn’t mesh. It is what it is.”