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Coaching contrasts of Super Bowl 2012: the 'hoodie' vs. the 'colonel'

No matter the outcome of Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, it's the contrasting coaching styles of New England Patriots' Bill Belichick and New York Giants' Tom Coughlin that mean more for NFL's future. 

By Correspondent / February 5, 2012

In this Sept. 3, 2009, file photo, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, left, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shake hands after a preseason NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots face the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis.

AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File

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It's down to two men. In one corner: wild ideas (not always good ones) and a sense of entitlement to victory. In the other: patience and mistake-free management – a man who outlasts his opponents, more than beats them. No, it's not Gingrich and Romney in the GOP primaries. It's Belichick and Coughlin in the Super Bowl.

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At first glance, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin have a lot in common. Both men came up through the National Football League (NFL) ranks as assistants to coaching great Bill Parcells. And like many in the Parcells coaching family tree, both run their programs with obsessive attention to detail and an uncompromising sense of discipline and control.

As coaches, however, the two are different breeds: the conservative Coughlin versus Belichick the gambler. In Super Bowl XLVI, the contrasting styles will be on full display. But beyond the big game, both coaches represent something about how football is evolving, and between the two of them exists an emerging model for the pro football coach of the future.

With his risky, outside-the-box thinking, Belichick may be the future of coaching strategy in an increasingly offensive-minded NFL. But personality-wise, Coughlin's "disciplinarian with a heart" could be the key to success in a game played by millionaires with brittle egos, says Mike Tanier, an analyst for footballoutsider.com.

Coughlin is about rules, first and foremost. During his first NFL head-coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a player showing up to practice in the wrong color socks would send the meticulous coach into a red-faced screaming fit. When he got to New York, Coughlin famously fined players who didn't show up at least five minutes early to meetings.

But the man nicknamed "Colonel Coughlin" has softened a bit during his tenure with the Giants, and his severe public persona can be forgiven because of his consistency and integrity – especially when the Giants are winning.

"With Coughlin, you know where the doghouse is," says Tanier. "He also won't take a chance on a high-talent guy with a dingbat reputation."

Take wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who damaged the Giants' hopes for a Super Bowl repeat in 2009 when he accidentally shot himself in the leg and was sentenced to two years in prison. When Burress was released and ready to play again, Coughlin had a one-on-one closed meeting with his former receiver "to make sure he was OK, but with no intention of rehiring the guy," Tanier says.

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