(Manning, Coughlin after learning they’ve flunked out of Sound Byte School)

For those like myself who long figured the New York Football Giants would ordinarily make for decent national TV ratings, think again. The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman explains “despite the concern locally for Big Blue, the team has not – outside of a few seasons – been a national attraction capable of generating chart-busting TV ratings.”

Of all those participating last weekend in the first round of the playoffs, Pittsburgh has the largest national following. This is why Jaguars-Steelers got the Saturday night slot (Jags-Pats gets tomorrow’s prime-time nod on CBS). Following the obvious blueprint does not always work. Ratings for three of the four opening-round playoff games were down from the first weekend of the 2007 playoffs. Only Redskins-Seahawks represented a ratings increase.

That the Giants were not capable of pulling the Bucs into the plus (ratings) column was no shock. “As far as television goes, the Giants don’t have much national traction,” a network executive said yesterday. “Obviously, they were good enough to make the playoffs. But – outside of (Jeremy) Shockey (who is injured) and (Michael) Strahan – they don’t have any lightning-rod players whose personality and performance cut across state lines.”

The last time the Giants had true national marquee value was during the Bill Parcells years. That’s when Lawrence Taylor was making headlines – on and off the field. It was also when Phil Simms was displaying fire between the lines and a habit of delivering straight answers, something that eventually led him to a successful television career.

Although it was not by design, Parcells played a huge role in turning his Giants into a national TV attraction. His intimidating personality, and glib delivery, shaped a unique persona for his team – one successful at attracting viewers from coast to coast.

Tom Coughlin’s personality – or lack thereof – has rubbed off on his squad. In terms of on-field performance, which ultimately is all that matters, this is good. The players are following Coughlin’s lead and hearing his message. Unfortunately, vanilla does not sell well – especially these days – on TV.

Coughlin’s monotone regime could go surround-sound if the quarterback was carbonated. Eli Manning is more like a bottle of flat Coca-Cola. There is irony to this. The lunatic fringe, the first-time-callers-longtime-morons who carp about Manning not showing emotion, would actually have an intelligent argument if they confined their discussion to his TV appeal.