Giants’ Tynes kicks the wrath of his boss aside
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The employee messed up. The boss was waiting.
I’ve been there. You’ve been there. But have any of us ever been there quite like Lawrence Tynes two weeks ago in Green Bay?
Have any of us ever made a mistake that directly threatened our company’s future?
Have any of us been forced to run directly from that mistake to face the guy in charge?
In sub-zero temperatures? With 30 million people watching?
Then it happened, the image that endeared most of America to Lawrence Tynes, the reason his foot will hold many hearts as he kicks for the New York Giants in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
His boss went nuts on him.
His boss screamed, raged, frothed, face frozen red, spittle flying like icicles.
Moments after Tynes missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 6:49 left and the score tied in the NFC championship game with the Green Bay Packers, his coach, Tom Coughlin, buried him.
As Tynes ran off the field crouched in shame, Coughlin angrily piled on.
Did you see it? It will be one of the indelible images of the 2007 season, if only because it will live as a nightmare for working stiffs everywhere.
“I think everyone saw it, didn’t they?” said Tynes. “It’s like, people can’t talk about anything else.”
Well, as the Giants prepare to play the New England Patriots for the NFL championship, they’ve been talking about one more thing.
They’ve been talking about how Tynes had no idea what Coughlin said.
Said Tynes: “I never heard a word.”
Growled Coughlin: “Some of these players never listen to me.”
They’ve been talking about how Tynes ignored the coach, endured another miss at the end of regulation, then ran back onto the field without his coach’s permission to kick a game-winning 47-yard field goal in overtime.
Said Tynes: “I wanted that kick so bad, I wasn’t going to wait for the coach to stop me.”
Said Coughlin: “When I saw he wanted it, I let him have it.”
They’ve been talking about toughness here, not football toughness, but real world toughness, the sort of toughness anybody can understand.
They’ve been talking about how, after what happened in Green Bay, slight Lawrence Tynes might be the biggest Giant of them all.
Football players are generally so big you can spot them even when they’re surrounded by dozens of reporters.
Not so Lawrence Tynes.
This week, it is impossible to see him until you wade through the crowds and peer down upon his over-sized baseball cap and little-boy smile.
“This is really fun,” he said.
Super Bowl players don’t say things like that. Survivors do.
That’s why Tynes is the most relatable of stars this week, a guy we see in the mirror, a guy whose helmet cannot hide his human parts.
He was born and spent the first 10 years of his life in Scotland, took his soccer fever to Milton, Fla., turned it into a football career at Troy State in Alabama, just a guy who loved to kick.
He couldn’t make the NFL out of college, so he kicked for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe, and for the Ottawa Renegades in the Canadian Football League.
“Everybody comes to the Super Bowl as part of a journey,” he said. “Mine is just a different kind of journey.”
He finally made the Kansas City Chiefs in 2004, spent three years there as an average kicker, then was traded to the Giants in the spring.
And promptly spent most of the summer in a hospital room with his wife, Amanda.
She was struggling with illnesses related to her pregnancy with twins, and he refused to leave her side, sleeping in a chair-bed for 40 consecutive nights.
By the time he showed up at Giants training camp, he had not seriously kicked for weeks.
And he was immediately inundated with questions not just about his wife and twins, but about his older brother Mark, who is in an Arkansas jail serving 27 years for marijuana trafficking.
“Toughness,” Tynes said. “I guess everything makes you tough.”
So, six months later, when he missed that 43-yarder, then missed a 36-yarder off as time expired in regulation against the Packers?
“I didn’t think about anything, I just wanted another kick,” he said.
And after he shanked what should have been a chip shot that would have given the Giants the victory?
“It was terrible, but what could I do?” he said. “I just wanted another kick. I prayed for another kick.”
So what did Coughlin scream at him, anyway.
“I said, ‘How’s the weather out there?’ ” Coughlin said with a smirk. “I don’t remember what I said. How could I remember what I said?”
After the second miss, the only person to talk to Tynes was holder Jeff Feagles, who knew that Tynes had been distracted by a high snap.
“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll get the ball down, you just kick it,’ ” said Feagles.
“Most guys are afraid to talk to a kicker after a miss because they don’t know what to say. But I knew I had to say something.”
Tynes began the overtime huddled on a bench between heaters.
But then the Giants’ Corey Webster intercepted a Brett Favre pass on the Packers’ 34-yard line.
Three plays later, the Giants had moved it to the 29-yard line, leaving Tynes with a field-goal attempt that, if good, would be longer than any previous playoff field goal at Lambeau Field.
And if not, well . . .
“You know we play in New Jersey, right?” said defensive tackle Michael Strahan with a smile. “We have a way of dealing with people in New Jersey.
“And if we don’t win this game, it would be like, who was Lawrence Tynes?”
Seriously, faced with punting or going for the win, Coughlin was unsure about sending his kicker out there for more punishment.
Tynes, whose right foot had turned black and blue from the cold, ran out there before his coach could make up his mind.
“I was looking for a sign, and he gave it to me,” said Coughlin.
Feagles couldn’t believe it.
“The ball was so cold and hard, it was like a 55-yard field goal attempt,” he said.
Tynes couldn’t do it any other way.
“I wanted it,” he said. “You have to want it.”
The minute he kicked it, he knew it was good.
Yet it felt so much like a dream, he turned and sprinted from the field before he woke up.
Said Tynes: “I just wanted to get inside.”
Said Feagles: “I looked around and he was gone. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He celebrated with nobody. He celebrated with us all.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at email@example.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.