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Bus Stops: Giants punter messed up, but Coughlin was out of line


Throughout the 2010 NFL season,'s Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.

• Matt Dodge messed up, but Tom Coughlin acted unprofessionally. I understand the frustration of being ahead by 21 points with eight minutes left and then losing a game on the last play. Coughlin's anger was justified, but the way he expressed it was out of line. He went right up to Dodge on the field and berated him for everyone to see, as if the punter was solely to blame for the loss. True, Dodge made the biggest mistake by not kicking away from DeSean Jackson. But if Coughlin's going to act like that he might as well go off on the 10 other guys on his punt team, the defense that couldn't stop Michael Vick and his offense for not putting the game away. That's a situation that should be handled inside the locker room, away from cameras. A head coach's job is not only to manage the game but also to manage his players, and that's not the way to do it. Notice that we didn't see Mike Shanahan yelling in the face of his holder last week, even though he ended up losing his job.

Last week, I took issue with DeSean Jackson's unsportsmanlike antics before scoring his touchdown. He appeared to showboat again Sunday by running along the goal line before finally crossing into the end zone, but he said afterward that was done to exhaust any remaining time on the clock. I have no problem with that.

This game could have serious ramifications for both teams.

For the Giants, it's the kind of stinging loss that can linger and cause a rift among players if the head coach doesn't handle it right. Coughlin needs to regroup this team quickly because Week 16 against the Packers could be an elimination game.

The Eagles, meanwhile, proved to themselves that they can come from behind against a tough opponent in a hostile environment. It really bodes well for their psyche as a battle-tested team going into the playoffs, where a potential Michael Vick-at-Atlanta matchup may loom. Vick continued to improve his MVP stock with another impressive performance.

• I was just as impressed by Matt Cassel. I, too, had an emergency appendectomy and couldn't imagine playing football 11 days later. Mine was in the offseason, so I wasn't faced with Cassel's decision to play through it. But I do know it was a very, very painful surgery. The hardest thing to do as I recovered was to stretch or turn to the side, and that's what Cassel did on each of his 29 passing attempts Sunday. That had to be excruciating. I applaud you, Matt Cassel.

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•The Texans are in turmoil. I've never seen teammates get into a fight during a game before. Frustration has reached its tipping point in Houston, where the team is struggling and players are starting to point fingers at each other. It's a natural reaction after going into the season with such high expectations.

Many believe Gary Kubiak won't be back next season, and some believe Bill Cowher is a replacement candidate. I believe Cowher's going to be back on the sidelines next season. He's a coach at his core, and he's got the itch to come back. I've said the best fit for coach Cowher would probably be the Giants, if that job opens up, because of how well the organization is built and the team's ability to run the ball. But Houston could be compatible, too. They have three solid playmakers in Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson to build around, a decent offensive line and talent on defense. What the Texans are missing is direction and toughness. Coach Cowher could be very, very successful in Houston.

•What is Shanahan doing in Washington? I'm very disappointed and shocked by the way Shanahan has handled the Donovan McNabb situation. McNabb has done everything right, dealing with a trade, committing to learn a new system and trying to be a leader on a new team. The Redskins turn around and bench him, saying he was incapable of running the two-minute drill, which was total nonsense.

All the team has to do is say they want to go in another direction, that they need a spark and want to make a change. That would be fine -- players get benched every week. But they've blatantly lied to and disrespected McNabb, then tried to pacify him with a bogus contract. Now they're demoting him to third string for the final two weeks. If I'm a Redskins fan looking at this and some of the other happenings in Washington this year (Albert Haynesworth comes to mind), it's embarrassing.

•A few more quick thoughts ...

-- It didn't take long to notice what was missing from the Steelers defense against the Jets. That's a different unit without Troy Polamalu. No takeaways. No big plays. That's what is lacking when he's out. It was evident last season just as it was in Sunday's loss.

-- Terrell Owens showed this year he's still a capable starting wide receiver (before suffering a knee injury), so he deserves to be signed by somebody in need of receiving help next offseason, even with his baggage. Most playoff-caliber teams are set at the position, so he'll likely have to settle for a second-tier team yet again.

-- I believe Matt Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks a better chance to win than Charlie Whitehurst, so Pete Carroll should stick with his veteran as long as they're still in the playoff hunt. If eliminated, then see what you have in Whitehurst.

-- The Week 16 game I really want to see is Giants at Packers because it's likely only one of these teams will make the playoffs. It's critical for both teams, and both are dealing with adversity. How will the Giants respond after a devastating loss? Will Aaron Rodgers be back from his concussion and at his best? If Rodgers returns, I like the Packers to win. There's also been a silver lining to Rodgers' absence, the Green Bay running game being re-energized, adding flexibility to that offense.