With his risky, outside-the-box thinking, Belichick may be the future of coaching strategy in an increasingly offensive-minded NFL. But personality-wise, Coughlin's "disciplinarian with a heart" could be the key to success in a game played by millionaires with brittle egos, says Mike Tanier, an analyst for footballoutsider.com.
Coughlin is about rules, first and foremost. During his first NFL head-coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a player showing up to practice in the wrong color socks would send the meticulous coach into a red-faced screaming fit. When he got to New York, Coughlin famously fined players who didn't show up at least five minutes early to meetings.
But the man nicknamed "Colonel Coughlin" has softened a bit during his tenure with the Giants, and his severe public persona can be forgiven because of his consistency and integrity – especially when the Giants are winning.
"With Coughlin, you know where the doghouse is," says Tanier. "He also won't take a chance on a high-talent guy with a dingbat reputation."
Take wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who damaged the Giants' hopes for a Super Bowl repeat in 2009 when he accidentally shot himself in the leg and was sentenced to two years in prison. When Burress was released and ready to play again, Coughlin had a one-on-one closed meeting with his former receiver "to make sure he was OK, but with no intention of rehiring the guy," Tanier says.