Head coach Tom Coughlin. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The New York Giants season is over. There is, however, apparently no end to the stuff that comes out of Antrel Rolle's mouth. The Pro Bowl safety said several controversial things about his new team during his first year with the Giants, and that is continuing during the off-season.
Rolle's latest subject is coach Tom Coughlin, who he says "too uptight."
Rolle separates Coughlin the man from Coughlin the coach. The man, he enjoys. "On a personal level he's one of the best guys you could be around," Rolle said. "Very caring. Honest guy."
As a coach?
"Honestly, that's where the problem comes with me, as a coach. When you're talking about the coaching side of things, do I feel like things are a little too uptight? Yeah, I do. If he just loosened up just a little bit, run the ship the way you want to run it, run the program the way you want to run it but let us have a little fun, because at the end of the day that's what it's all about.
"He has to understand we have a great team, we don't have guys with discipline problems. We're going to pretty much handle our own outside of football. When it comes to football we're going to take care of our business on the field. Just let us have a little fun a little bit, man. I like the coach, I understand what he's trying to do but he has to understand it's 2011, man, things have changed."
Rolle's comments were made on WQAM radio in Miami during a show with Sid Rosenberg. Rolle strayed into the Coughlin chatter while talking, as you might expect, about the New York Jets.
"Do I think they're the best team out there? I don't think they're the best team out there. You can name a lot of teams better than them. If you match us up against the Jets, do I think they're a better team? No, I don't think so at all.
"But when it comes to their chemistry, I think their chemistry might be better than ours. I think they have a lot more fun than we have . . At the end of the day, yeah, we're professional athletes, we get paid a lot of money to do what we do but we're all human. No one is a robot at this level. We do have feelings, we like to have fun. ...
"People want to talk about Rex Ryan and this, that and the other, that team is going to war for him," Rolle said. "They would die for him."
Ugh! Are you kidding me, Antrel? I am not going to argue that Jets players don't enjoy playing for Ryan. Obviously, they do. But, blaming the Giants missing the playoffs on not having fun? I'm not buying that.
You are saying not having fun is the reason for the crappy angles you take so often in pass coverage? A lack of having fun is why the Giants imploded against Philadelphia? A lack of having fun is why the Giants didn't show up against Green Bay? A lack of fun is responsible for Eli Manning's interceptions, Ahmad Bradshaw's fumbles or Hakeem Nicks' nasty habit of tipping ball into the air? I'm not buying that.
We all know about Coughlin's transformation in 2007 from a demanding curmudgeon who really didn't seem to care what anyone thought to a guy much more open, more communicative with his players and more tolerant of the media and other opinions.
Has Coughlin, 64, reverted a little bit the past season or so? Hard to say, but maybe you could see it that way if you want to read that into his disbanding of the team's Leadership Council.
On that same show, Rolle's fellow safety, Kenny Phillips, also contrasted Ryan and Coughlin.
"I would love to play for a guy like Rex," Phillips told Rosenberg. "He goes to bat for his players. He'll take the blame, he allows you to be you. He's not asking you to hide. If you're a guy who likes to talk, go out and talk, as long as you back it up. His guys are playing for him and I'd love to be a part of that."
Asked, "Who is Tom Coughlin?" Phillips said, "Honestly I don't know. Still trying to figure it out. I'm going into my fourth year and I'm still trying to feel him out. He's a strict guy, sometimes he's kind of loose. He's sort of like a general, especially the way he runs his football team."
Are both players hinting that there are players on the Giants who haven't played their best, or maybe given their best effort, because the coach doesn't let them have enough fun? To me, that's on the players. It isn't on the coach.
How much more can Coughlin be expected to change? Should he really have to change? I am not around the team every day to see get a read on the dynamics or the chemistry. Maybe there is some tension between Coughlin and newer Giants players, guys like Rolle who weren't around when the Giants won the Super Bowl. I can't tell you foir sure, though it seems possible. Coughlin is the coach, and in my mind fully deserves to the coach, so if there is a gap of some sort -- perceived or otherwise -- let's hope it can be bridged. I am not sure, though, that it is on Coughlin to bridge it. I do know this about Coughlin -- he cares very much about his players, and he cares deeply about winning. Personally, I wonder sometimes if the issue is really that some players don't share the commitment to winning that Coughlin does.
As a fan, I want victories first and foremost. Getting to the playoffs as often as possible and winning the Super Bowl occasionally is what it's all about. Maybe it's a quaint, old-fashioned notion but I also care about the image of the franchise, the way it is represented and the way the team goes about its business.
It is why I will take Coughlin over Ryan to run my football team every time. I would be embarrassed to have my team associated with all the off-the-field nonsense that goes on with Ryan's Jets, much of what starts with and is condoned by the coach himself. The Ines Sainz stuff, the foot-fetish nonsense, the sideline tripping foolishness, all the bravado. I'm old-fashioned -- maybe just old -- but I don't believe in all that nonsense.
I believe in what Coughlin believes. Don't talk, play. Do your job. Be a professional.
As for Rolle, he was a free agent a year ago. He had his chance to go and play for Ryan, or a coach like him (are there any others like Ryan?). He came to the Giants, and he knew who the coach was. He needs to find a way to deal with it.