Battle Of New York: Two Coaches Who Do It Their Own Way

TJ with respect for the differing methods of Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin

Tom Coughlin: “Regardless of what is said. Talk is cheap, play the game. That is the way I’ve always believed.”

Rex Ryan: “That’s the old saying, ‘Talk is cheap, money buys whiskey. I understand all that and that’s the truth. But I don’t care about Tom Coughlin or anybody else. I know how I believe. I don’t care what’s acceptable in everybody’s opinion. I really don’t care. I’m worried about my opinion and this is how I feel. Quite honestly, I don’t care what anybody thinks.”

Rex Ryan was right when he remarked about the Jets/Giants border war, and how “it is on.”  Wednesday the temperature grew hotter as both sides traded fire. Giants WR Hakeem Nicks called Darrelle Revis a “decent” CB while Santonio Holmes called the Giants secondary bad tacklers and exposable. The coaches went tit for tat as well (see above) but try and put the coaches flurry of early round jabs aside for a moment and consider this. BOTH Ryan and Coughlin actually deserve some praise. For their annual ability to navigate through storms like losing streaks, and players with poor behavior in their own ways. Both teams are left for dead yearly, yet somehow get up off the mat under that duress and get back into contention. Led by their head coaches who refuse to quit.

Ryan clearly put his face on the front lines as a target this week but that was his choice. Perhaps a strategic one. His team got pummeled last Sunday in Philly, and probably needs an emotional injection.

Giants RB Brandon Jacobs alluded to this notion today and he’s not far off. Where he may be wrong though, is that the effect for Gang Green will be minimal. The Jets often rally around Ryan for sticking his neck out. They can’t play worse than they did against the Eagles anyway, so Rex might just be trying to stir it up for his own troops. To deflect talk about underachieving players and units, whether it’s the conventional approach to use or not.

It’s interesting how Ryan’s pot stirring has Giants beat writers all of a sudden taking offense to the mistreatment of Coughlin. When for the past two seasons and more, much of their fan base have gone after Coughlin directly themselves.

We guess that knocking off the undefeated Pats in the Super Bowl as a streaking road wildcard entry, one of the greatest collections of wins in Pro Football history, doesn’t mean that much anymore.

It just doesn’t seem “classy” for the Giants storied organization, to let Coughlin twist in the end every year without getting in front of the message and providing this loyal guy in season support. What message does that send? It sends the message that it’s ok to rail on the HC every time the Giants hit bumps in the road. Allows for degrading talk about perennial playoff loser Bill Cowher (albeit except one Super Bowl win by Cowher over the Seahawks who never get that far anyway) to surface every time a few losses occur in succession in the process.

Ryan has taken risks. Some of them unprovoked ones. By talking Super Bowl. By saying that New York is the Jets town. By going after who ever he goes after, as often as he does. Whenever, and for whatever reason that he chooses to.

In the end Ryan essentially answers to the Jets fan base. Some of whom DO disapprove with Ryan’s current barrage on the Giants. As others applaud Ryan’s attempt at giving THIS team the verbal swagger that it has fed off of while playing for him. None of whom will dismiss how irrelevant the club was nationally for years at a time since 1969. Even if Ryan’s high expectations leave a new found disappointment as each big time goal fall short.

Maybe one day Rex will pull it back. Reel it in. Utilize his motivational ability in a less confrontational way. Maybe he won’t.

As for Giants nation though, it’s ironic how they have chosen THIS moment, thanks in part to Ryan, to rally around a coach who has taken them to the playoffs in four out of eight seasons. While never damaging the integrity of a franchise that prides itself on integrity above all else. Even as the bullets fly towards him every year, during the season. For Coughlin, it’s taken too long for the support, and that’s not right.

Saturday’s Jets Giants matchup will be decided on the field. By the players and coaches. Not by the ones wearing Green and Blue jerseys in the stands. When it’s over, regardless of the outcome, a victory still won’t guarantee either club a postseason bid. The Jets will still have their loyalists, and the Giants will have theirs.

These aren’t the fly by night GOP straw polls of Iowa. This is the NFL. These are the Jets and Giants. Two teams with die hards, who have invested more in their love for their teams, than some media hyped weekend involving tough talking quotes from both sides, could fictitiously inflate. The truth is, Saturday provides us with a matchup between two teams whose records hardly warrant ownership of anything extended life into week 17.

How many who reside on either side of this border war, when the clock hits 0:00, will be able to step back and say that both Ryan and Coughlin have made their teams better since they arrived? Have made their teams competitive into December every year (excpet one. 2004. When Coughlin made the switch to Eli Manning as a developmental choice). Have put their teams in position to compete for the Vince Lombardi trophy ever year. The one’s that don’t have it in them to, should.

Maybe the unwilling ought to call up Browns fans. Or Dolphins fans. Or Redskins fans. Ask them if THEY would sign up for one of these guys on their sidelines going forward.

Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin took over clubs with different histories, and have both held up a significant part of the bargain. Ryan has rebranded the Jets from their self loathing and self pitying past to a team won’t feel sorry for itself anymore. Coughlin has kept the Giants dignified.

Few expected any friendly fire in the press this week from either camp given what is at stake this weekend.  Yet when the so called “Battle for New York” ends, both coaches should get a hand. For what they’ve done, not for what they haven’t, or have said when microphones are placed in front of them.

Ryan and Coughlin not being cut from the same cloth is far from being any breaking news. One is an outspoken loudmouth who does seem to like creating extra drama for himself. The other, is a throwback to the days when discipline was priority number one. The successes that Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin have, come from doing things in their own particular way. Whether all who follow the NFL agree with their methods, and whether or not you like them as coaches or as people too.

Top Ten Head Coaches In NFL?

ESPN continued through their positional power rankings yesterday by ranking the top ten coaches in the NFL, here is what their list looked like:

  1. Bill Belichick
  2. Mike Tomlin
  3. Andy Reid
  4. Mike McCarthy
  5. Sean Payton
  6. Tom Coughlin
  7. Rex Ryan
  8. Love Smith
  9. Mike Smith
  10. Mike Shanahan/John Harbaugh

Personally, I think the panelists did a fairly good job. A key question when ranking head coaches is does winning a Super Bowl automatically place you above all your peers who have not. Clearly, the panelists didn’t feel that way by placing Andy Reid at number three and having Rex Ryan ahead of Mike Shanahan (even though it has been over a decade since he won his).

With a list like this, the question of who would you want coaching your team next year and moving forward needs to be factored in, not just who has the best lifetime resume. I would bump Sean Payton up to three on the  list, considering his Super Bowl victory and how the Saints, an organization that has traditionally struggled, have found consistent success under him. He is also one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, if not the brightest. I would put McCarthy ahead of Andy Reid as well, especially with his recent playoff victory over Reid’s team in mind and of course Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory last year.

You can see the ongoing debate between Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan I am involved in but I think Reid belongs somewhere in the 5-7 range with both of them. I would also absolutely have John Harbaugh higher than Mike Smith. In the last three years, Harbaugh has won multiple playoff games and taken his team to the AFC Championship Game, Smith is yet to win a single playoff game despite being the home team twice.

To even have Rex in the discussion for being a top 5-7 coach in the league after only two years on the job is encouraging and has to make you excited about his potential in the coming years. However, it will ultimately take a Super Bowl title for Rex to become one of the league’s elite coaches.