Super Bowl coaches: friendly rivals and sticklers for detail
Under Belichick, the Patriots are undefeated this season. With Coughlin, the Giants won a record 10 games on the road.
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"He's smart, well prepared. He has knowledge of all three areas – special teams, defense, and offense," says Patriots safety Rodney Harrison. "He just pays attention to every single aspect or detail about this football team, and that's the thing that really separates Bill Belichick from others."Skip to next paragraph
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But some of his moves haven't gone over well. In 1993, when he was head coach at the Cleveland Browns, he decided that the quarterback, Bernie Kosar, had become ineffective. Belichick released him from the team, even though Kosar's back up, Vinny Testaverde, was injured. The incident upset just about everyone connected with the team, and the Browns went on to lose six of their next eight games.
Yet he learned from that experience. When Drew Bledsoe, the Patriots' star quarterback, suffered an injury in 2001, Belichick replaced him in the lineup with little-known Tom Brady. It wasn't a seamless move, but the transition was much smoother, experts say, because of the way Belichick handled it.
At the onset of this season, however, Belichick dealt with more controversy: The NFL hit him with a $500,000 fine for videotaping an opposing team's defensive signals. The NFL also fined the team $250,000 and took away its first-round draft pick.
But the team has used that adversity to motivate its near-perfect play this season. And through it all, Belichick keeps his team focused on the task at hand. For example, his players have been peppered this week with questions such as, "How will it feel to be the first team to go 19-0 in one season?"
They stick to the same answer: There is one game to play, and we are focused on trying to win it. "We've been dealing with that all season," says Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Coughlin's success with the Jags
Like Belichick, Coughlin spent many long seasons coaching college football and assisting other coaches in the NFL. His first head coach job was with an expansion team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. He built the team from the ground up and took it to the AFC championship games in 1996 and 1999.
Coughlin's list of rules, with the Jaguars and later with the Giants, has become legendary. No sunglasses on the sidelines. No white socks and sneakers in hotel lobbies. Two feet on the ground during team meetings.
Soon after he joined the Giants in 2004, he fined four players for being just a couple of minutes early for a team meeting. He reportedly expected these players to show up at least five minutes early for meetings.
Last season, the Giants posted an unimpressive 8-8 record and lost a wild-card playoff to the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, Coughlin has somewhat transformed his leadership habits, reportedly at the request of the team's owners. He's tried to improve communication and set a kinder tone, and he's more personable with his players. Many in the game say the Giants outstanding record this year is due largely to Coughlin's changes.
At the beginning of this season, Coughlin set up a leadership council of veteran players who act as middlemen between Coughlin and the other players.
"You grow, and you learn, and you adapt, and you adjust," says Coughlin, his blue eyes sparkling in the Arizona sun. "I've tried to do a much better job of communicating to the players through our leadership council…. I was going to make them feel comfortable and feel that they could contribute. And they did, and they have."
The players have noticed the difference. "If [Coughlin] didn't change, we wouldn't be here," says defensive end Michael Strahan, one of the four players that Coughlin fined in 2004. "I don't think you'd have guys with the same commitment or who would care enough to win 10 games on the road."