More than 20 years after working together as assistant coaches for a Super Bowl champion, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin are pitted against each other as coaching rivals in Super Bowl 46.
Belichick will try to equal the record of four Super Bowl coaching triumphs when he guides the New England Patriots against Coughlin’s New York Giants on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Coughlin and Belichick spent the 1988 to 1990 seasons as assistant coaches for the Giants under Bill Parcells, culminating with a 1991 Super Bowl victory. Coughlin coached receivers, while Belichick was defensive coordinator.
They traded secrets on techniques each used, allowing the other to better understand how the other’s players were trained to react in what Belichick called the best relationship he ever had with another assistant.
“We had a very good give-and-take on a daily basis. We were able to help each other out and help us both be better coaches,” Belichick said. “It transcends the units we had and the players we worked with. It was very exceptional. I learned a lot from Tom relative to the offense.”
Coughlin learned from the exchanges as well.
“There was a certain amount of competitiveness about the positions and the interaction,” Coughlin said. “More than that there was a spirit of cooperation. We helped each other and would act as each other’s scout squad.”
“We would take advantage during training camp of any opportunity we were given to work against each other. We worked well together and it was a very good thing for our staff because our cooperation was outstanding. Both sides benefitted from it,” Coughlin said.
Belichick admires much of what he sees from Coughlin, even as he tries to find ways to foil his plans, especially in the wake of a loss to the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl to spoil an unbeaten season and another defeat in November last year.
“I respect a lot of things about Tom — his evaluation of talent, the way he attacks teams, his consistency, his discipline, his team’s toughness, their resiliency,” Belichick said. “Tom is a good guy and good to be around.”
Coughlin hopes to have some new tricks up his sleeve for Belichick on Sunday as well.
“I certainly do admire him,” Coughlin said. “He has done an outstanding job. He’s an exceptional coach. Bill’s going to work very hard, as we are, at showing you something and it really isn’t what you think it is. You really have to add an element of that into how you prepare.”
Both were disciplines of Parcells, whose discipline and no-nonsense manner was mixed with demanding workouts and high expectations.
“I don’t know who rubs off on whom,” Belichick said. “That was the way Tom was as an assistant coach. He was very disciplined and very detail-oriented. He demanded a lot from his players. He was fair, but firm, like he is now.”