Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants and Rex Ryan of the New York Jets are coaches with vastly different styles. Coughlin is the elder statesman, the guy with the reputation as a disciplinarian, a taskmaster who has his own odd rules and a stern set of expectations for players. Some players who play for him don't understand him and others who haven't say they wouldn't want to. Ryan, of course, is the bombastic, bragging coach who players everywhere seem to feel they would love to play for. He is full of swagger, and he rubs many who don't play for him the wrong way.
Thing is, both New York coaches have the same problem as the 2011 NFL season reaches the post-Thanksgiving stretch run. Both of their teams are reeling at the moment, and could be headed toward disappointing finishes to the season.
Coughlin, seemingly, has the bigger problem. A third straight season without a playoff appearance could easily cost the 64-year-old coach his job, no matter how many of the team's injuries or personnel shortcoming are beyond his control.
The Giants are 6-4, trailing the 7-4 Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The Giants have lost two straight, and are now 24-34 in the second halves of seasons during Coughlin's eight-year tenure. The Giants started 2008 11-1, finished 12-4 and got bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. In 2009, they started 5-0, went 3-8 in their final 11 games and missed the playoffs. Last season they were 9-4, lost two of their last three, and again missed the playoffs.
After starting this season 6-2 it is easy to see that another playoff-less "quick start, terrible finish" season could cause the Giants organization to re-think its commitment to Coughlin, who has one year remaining on his contract. The Giants won the 2008 Super Bowl in amazing fashion, and Coughlin deserves all the credit that comes with being a Super Bowl-winning coach. One Super Bowl, though, does not give him a lifetime pass to coach the Giants.
His teams have disappointed the past two seasons. His mantra has always been "talk is cheap, play the game." Yet, for the past two years his teams have talked a better game than they have played.
With a brutal schedule remaining (at New Orleans, vs. Green Bay, at Dallas, vs. Washington, at the Jets, vs. Dallas) the Giants have to find a was to stop talking and start playing. Or, Coughlin might be walking out the door for good as Giants coach.
Ryan's problem is, largely, that he talks too much. He has guaranteed, again and again, the Super Bowl that Coughlin has already delivered. Yet, he has not won it. He has not even reached it.
This season, the Jets are 5-5 and appear to have no shot at the AFC East title after two losses to the New England Patriots. The Jets offense appears stagnant, quarterback Mark Sanchez appears to be regressing in his third season, and the defense does not seem as dominant as it did a couple of seasons ago.
Worse yet, their are real questions surfacing for the first time about Ryan's effectiveness on the Jets' sideline. His relationship with Sanchez has been questioned, especially as Ryan has allowed backup Mark Brunell some first-team reps this week. Legendary Jets quarterback Joe Namath has been highly critical of Ryan, saying his 'Mr. Good Guy' approach is not getting the best from the team. Pro Football Weekly this week wondered if Jets players are beginning to tire of Ryan's act.
The Jets have six games to right the ship and get to the playoffs for the third time in Ryan's three years as coach. If they don't make it that failure won't cost Ryan his job. Considering all of his big talk, though, it might cost him some of his credibility.