Tiki Barber would still be Giant if Tom Coughlin was not coach, former RB's memoir reveals
BY JONATHAN LEMIRE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Tuesday, September 4th 2007, 4:00 AM
In his memoir, 'Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond,' Tiki Barber writes: 'If Tom Coughlin (below) had not remained as head coach of the Giants, I might still be in a Giants uniform.'
Tiki Barber says he would still be playing football if the Giants had a new head coach.
The recently retired star running back has used his new memoir to rip Big Blue boss Tom Coughlin, blaming his former head coach for driving him from the game he loved.
"If Tom Coughlin had not remained as head coach of the Giants, I might still be in a Giants uniform," Barber wrote in his upcoming book "Tiki: My Life in the Game and Beyond," excerpts of which were obtained by the Daily News.
"[Coughlin] robbed me of what had been one of the most important things I had in my life, which was the joy I felt playing football," Barber wrote. "I had lost that. He had taken it away."
Barber has unleashed a steady stream of verbal jabs at his former coach and teammates since he walked off the gridiron in January at the age of 31 to pursue a TV career.
Barber, who landed a regular gig on NBC's "Today" and its upcoming "Sunday Night Football" telecasts, most recently engaged in a war of words with Eli Manning, accusing the young Giants quarterback of not showing enough leadership.
Most of his vitriol in the book is reserved for Coughlin. Though he credits his former coach for helping solve a chronic fumbling problem, Barber believes his on-the-field performance saved Coughlin's job.
"It's a double-edged sword, because as much as Coach Coughlin helped me, I also helped Tom Coughlin," he wrote. Barber says he believes the Giants' win over the Redskins in 2006 - which put them into the playoffs - allowed Coach Coughlin to keep his job.
In last season's final game, Barber rushed for a career-best 234 yards against Washington. The Giants were knocked out of the playoffs the following week in his last game.
He says he came to resent the way he was being treated so much by the end of last season that he decided to quit even though his love for football never waned.
In the book, Barber defends his decision to walk away from football even though he was still clearly at the top of his game, having just become the Giants' all-time leader in rushing yards and receptions.
"The fans normally only see me suited up on Sunday," Barber wrote. "They never witness the agony of Monday morning, or all the muscle-straining workouts, the practices, the blood, the sweat, and tears it takes to walk out onto the field.
He wrote that fans who don't witness the pain athletes go through can't understand why so many sports figures quit. He said that by walking away, true-blue fans saw him as a heretic, while those who saw football as a war considered him a deserter. He also slams the Giants for underpaying him, claiming he made about half of what some of the NFL's other top running backs made.
Barber says Big Blue shorted him about $10 million over his career.
He said the Giants should have won more championships over the years, but failed to do so because they have never been too smart about attracting and retaining high-caliber players or coaches.
Longtime Giants fans have never forgiven the owners for letting two of the best coaches in football - Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry
- get away. Both took head coaching jobs after the Giants failed to promote them. Barber angrily rebutted those in the media who slammed his decision to announce his retirement during the middle of last season.
"It was overwhelmingly negative," he wrote. "One theme: I was a 'distraction' to my teammates. I was labeled self-centered, a loose cannon, not a team player."
The 240-page book, which Barber co-wrote with Gil Reavill and was published by Simon Spotlight, goes on sale Sept. 18.