Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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He's old-fashioned. He's a disciplinarian. He demands accountability. He wants his players in meetings five minutes early. He's a drill sergeant. All of those sentiments may be more than true, but so is this: Tom Coughlin is a two-time Super Bowl champion. The coach of the New York Giants comes straight out of the 1950s, and it's a surprise that he doesn't have his players throw a medicine ball around as a way to warm up before games or have a rule preventing them from watching the "talking picture machine" so they won't ruin their eyesight. It's doubtful he had any clue who halftime entertainers LMFAO were as he gave his team a speech back in the locker room during Super Bowl XLVI. He may not even know what the acronym LMFAO stands for either. But the old-time coach is the one who's having the last LMFAO on everyone else now.
The casual NFL fan most likely views Coughlin as a raving lunatic, due to the fact that whenever a Giant player makes a dumb mistake or if a ref blows a call, FOX (or whichever network is broadcasting the game) immediately cuts to a sideline shot of the Giant coach blowing his top, doing his Yosemite Sam impression, with steam coming out of his ears and guns a-blazing. When things are going well for the Giants we rarely see Coughlin, as there's no money shot in that, so it's a one-dimensional view of the coach that is fed to us.
Coughlin also supposedly can't relate to today's athlete, as he's stuck in some kind of Vince Lombardi throwback time machine. He might as well be wearing a fedora and overcoat on the sidelines. The Giant coach can be hard to understand or he's misunderstood, whichever way you want to look at it, and players around the NFL have stated they don't want to play for the old curmudgeon. But Coughlin has a team-first, organization-first, do-your-job-and-be-on-time philosophy that is all about winning. Nothing else. While that may be tough to take for the modern player, who is used to calling the shots and doing what he pleases, as his entourage and agent whisper in his ear, it can work. Just ask Antrel Rolle, a rebellious individualist who at first clashed with his coach, but finally saw the light halfway through this season, realized the error of his ways and joined the Coughlin fan club. Rolle in turn went from bloviating big mouth to being the voice of reason trying to keep his teammates in line. Sure, the Giant coach may have become a little more flexible over the years and just a tiny bit warmer and fuzzier, establishing a leadership council and even telling his players he loved them the night before the second Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots, but he's the adult among children, and most times the adult knows best.
There's no hidden agenda with Coughlin. There's no "everything is beneath me" dismissiveness of a Bill Belichick, and certainly no Rex Ryan bluster, braggadocio or embarrassing moments. There's no "look what a genius I am" ego or self-serving nonsense. He's filled with class, dignity, ethics and morals. He's a gracious loser and is just as gracious when winning. In New York, where every interception is the end of the world, every victory is juxtaposed with the dominating 1986 Giants and any and every negative syllable uttered in the locker room can travel the world in three seconds, Coughlin is as steady as a rock, unwavering in his demeanor and confident that he's always on the right path to success. Yes, he may be the football equivalent of the forever crewcutted cop from Squaresville, Sergeant Joe Friday, who spent episodes of Dragnet weaving his way through the underworld of hippies, criminals and drug addicts attempting to keep society on the straight and narrow, but somebody has to do it, right? Rex Ryan isn't going to.
Coughlin is a typewriter in a Twitter world. When everyone else is texting, he's writing letters. He's 33 1/3 when all around him are tuning out via iPod. But with two Super Bowl victories under his belt, he's just proving that sometimes the old way is still the best way, that old-time values may still be the right values. His success has struck a blow for doing things correctly, without shortcuts but with decency and humility. Asking his players to show up on time for work? Asking his players to do their job? Asking his players to behave like civilized adults? Asking his players to respect each other, their opponent and the game of football? How can that be wrong? Two Super Bowl wins while coaching the Giants and building the Jacksonville Jaguars from scratch and leading them to a pair of AFC Conference Championship Games just may put Tom Coughlin in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he did it his way. The right way.