I have a suggestion for the Super Bowl XLVI coin toss: The NFL should let Bill Parcells do the honors. By kickoff, the former Giants and Patriots coach might be a Hall of Famer (he should go in on the first ballot Saturday night) and is responsible for both head coaches on the field. No matter where you look, Bill Parcells' fingerprints are all over this game.
Both Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Patriots coach Bill Belichick worked on Parcells' staff as the Giants rebuilt their team during the 1980s and eventually won two Super Bowls. Coughlin was wide receivers coach from 1988-90; Belichick was defensive coordinator 1985-90. The most important requirement to be an assistant for Parcells was not total football knowledge but rather a high IQ. Parcells wanted extremely smart, energetic coaches who could absorb his teachings and advance his theories. He loved hiring coaches with some sort of military background as Parcells wanted coaches with self discipline, toughness and the resolve to handle tough times. Those are the same qualities the service academies seek in their new recruits. As much as both men are students of Parcells, however, both men bring their own uniqueness to the job, which is why they have stood the test of time and lasted so long.
This Super Bowl is about two men who have mastered their craft, learned how to become head coaches, learned how to adapt and learned from each mistake. Their path to success has been slightly different, but Coughlin and Belichick believe in toughness and that the game is won in the trenches. In spite of all the passing, both believe in building a physical football team that is mentally tough.
What can be learned watching Coughlin and Belichick work is that no matter how much the game changes, there are certain things that never grow old -- fundamentals, preparation, attention to detail and a willingness to sacrifice. They adore the essence of football, are purists and understand how to get a team prepared to win games.
Coughlin has had his ups and downs in New York, but as a man of great faith, he never lost belief in his ability to do the job, or his ability to endure the hard times. As Coughlin grows older, he becomes more vested in his team and falls more in love with his job.
Vince Lombardi once told the Packers players that their priorities should always be God, Family and the Green Bay Packers, and not always in that order. Coughlin takes the Lombardi approach on priorities. No matter what time of the year or what time of the day, Coughlin always is thinking about the Giants, working hard to improve himself and the team. He never lets success affect his overall preparation for his job. Win or lose, Coughlin will be the same driven coach, doing the important items to help make the team better. He is gaining more energy, more resolve and a better understanding of how to do his job.
Youth is supposed to bring vigor and vision, but often it brings youthful mistakes. Coughlin shows the football world that experience matters, that a wise old soul still is productive. I am confident that Coughlin loves his job more today than at any time in his career. And well he should because he is really good at it.
Belichick is much like Coughlin. He loves his job, and each day he gets better. Belichick always is trying to improve, constantly in search of getting an edge in his approach to schemes, scouting and how he teaches. Belichick is aware of everything, from what is happening with his team to what is happening in Miami, New York, etc. He has the clearest understanding of what is urgent and important in his daily work day. Never does he waste his or his players' time. Everything has a purpose, and nothing is done on the fly.
Belichick is curious and never satisfied. He always wants to be ahead of the game, never allowing anyone to catch him by surprise. He spends time preparing and knows when to attack. With his extremely perceptive mind for football, Belichick is always two steps ahead. He never lets his accomplishments slow him down. He is not much of a trophy collector or a bow taker. His love of the game drives him to get better, yet it is his meticulous attention to detail that allows him to be at the forefront of his profession.
They say a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. Parcells mentored both men well. He gave them hope, belief in themselves and the confidence they could be as successful as their teacher.
My game prediction will come out Friday, but here's one iron-clad guarantee: Super Bowl XLVI will be a well-coached game.