The Patriots and the Giants are set to square off in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII. From an Eagles fan’s standpoint, there is not much to like about either of these teams – especially because they make the getting there, and the winning, look easy.
The New York Giants are 5-0 in NFC Championship Games.
Let that sink in a little.
Bill Parcells won 2, and 2 Super Bowls. Jim Fassel won one, but lost in his Super Bowl appearance. Tom Coughlin has now won 2 and is trying to win both Super Bowls. What do these coaches have in common? Let’s just say they give very few people a warm, fuzzy feeling.
In fact, these guys – especially Parcells and Coughlin – are well known for publicly berating their players, or pretending to forget the identities of some of their star players, in a concerted effort to stress team play over individual accolades. For lip readers out there, Giants punter Steve Weatherford, who is also the holder on placekicks, screamed “I’m going to the bleeping Super Bowl” after Lawrence Tynes kicked the game-winning field goal against the 49ers in overtime in the NFC Championship Game. Weatherford, to put it kindly, is an NFL journeyman, now on his fifth team since 2006. Why did he get the chance to land on the Giants this year?
Let’s roll back to December 19, 2010. The Giants were in the process of giving a game to the Eagles that they seemed to have put away when they had a 31-10 lead. By the games’ last 14 seconds, the score was tied at 31. The Giants had to punt on a fourth down from their own 35 yard line. They even called a timeout as the play clock got to one second to go over the very obvious strategy – kick the ball away from DeSean Jackson and force overtime. Even if the kick would be short and out of bounds, do not let Jackson return the punt.
As we all know, after a high snap, rookie punter Matt Dodge kicked a line drive punt straight up the field and Jackson, after initially dropping the ball, ran the punt back for the game-winning touchdown. Replays showed that Tom Coughlin ran onto the field, quite possibly even before Jackson had crossed the goal line (since he ran along the goal line to make sure time had expired before going into the end zone), and went right after Dodge, screaming at him “I told you to kick it out of bounds!”
Despite rumors that Coughlin would be fired, it wasn’t Coughlin who got the heck out of dodge – instead it was Dodge who got the heck out of New York.
Bill Belichick is no less ruthless. He will stop at nothing to win. He has been accused of spying on other team’s practices, especially in the playoffs and in preparation for the Super Bowl. Many feel that he had the Eagles’ blitz signals in Super Bowl XXXIX. He has hired people, such as ex-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who have inside information on his opponents. He is also head-coaching in his fifth Super Bowl, tying Tom Landry and leaving him one short of Don Shula’s record 6 Super Bowls. A win against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI would be his fourth, tying him at the top of the winners’ list with Chuck Noll.
Yet in a lot of ways, the numbers are less likely to be the motivating factor than the opportunity to partially erase the one blemish on Belichick’s Super Bowl resume. Given that the Giants also beat the Patriots this season, many around the league are wondering whether the Giants simply have their ex-assistant coach’s number. Belichick, and his equally competitive quarterback Tom Brady, would like nothing better than to be able to say that Super Bowl XLII was a fluke, restore Eli Manning to the list of good but not great quarterbacks, and get on with their dynasty-building.
In a regular season dominated by offenses, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are now spectators. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick has somehow coaxed just enough defense out of the suspect group he has playing on that side of the ball to find himself and his team on the brink of another Super Bowl win – this time at the expense of an organization he served for 12 years, including as Parcells’ defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins.
Contrast Parcells, Coughlin and Belichick with Andy Reid. Yes, Andy Reid has cut players after they made major mistakes. But nearly all of those guys were special teamers or other bit players.
Andy Reid may seem aloof to Eagles fans, always repeating the refrain “I’ve got to do a better job” after losses, but he is apparently a coach that many around the league want to play for. Meanwhile, he is 1-4 in NFC Championship Games, with zero Super Bowl wins. He is currently the longest tenured coach in the NFL only in part on merit, but primarily because those who make the hiring decisions are comfortable with him.
While some would say that the “tough guy” approach only works when you’re winning, I would say that the “lack of accountability” approach never works. Better to hire a succession of drill sergeants until one pans out than to hire a guy whom everyone loves but can’t get his guys to win the big game.
In this era of the pampered athlete, many of whom take to Twitter to shamelessly promote themselves, keep themselves popular and maintain a positive public image, the last thing this type of athlete wants is public criticism, even if it might be deserved. Football players in particular are often put up on a pedestal from high school (and even middle school), falling into the star system at an early age. To get 45 of them to set aside their egos 19 or 20 times a year is no small feat.
All in all, while Coughlin and Belichick might make it look easy, their approach is anything but. Andy Reid is the one taking the easy way out – with the operative word being “out.”