Giants vs. Jets: Two Styles of Coaching (and Leading)

January 22, 2012

In the wake of the NY Giants' Super Bowl victory, this lesson contrasts the Giants' style of coaching and leading with that of the Jets, a team the Giants recently defeated. In the process, students consider: What makes a leader effective? What does it take to foster teamwork?

by Marieke van Woerkom


To the Teacher (or Coach)

On February 5, 2012, the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, defeating the New England Patriots. Though you may not be Giants fan, or even a football fan, you might be interested in using the sports news to explore some important questions, including: What makes a leader effective? What does it take to foster teamwork? In this lesson, we will take a look at how the Giants and their coach have been able to foster what could be considered a collaborative atmosphere - and how it seems to have paid off. We'll explore the contrast between the Giants' approach to their recent games to that of the New York Jets (who were defeated by the Giants on Christmas Eve) - and consider how these approaches might apply elsewhere, including the classroom.


Students will:

  • Explore the idea of role models, such as captains and leaders 
  • Compare two different coaching styles in football
  • Consider the characteristics we'd like to see in our leaders
  • Examine some of the values that underpin positive team environments

Social and Emotional Skills:

  • Democratic leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Support and encouragement of others
  • Respect

Materials needed:

  • Today's agenda on chart paper or on the board
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Handout (at bottom of lesson)
  • Link to New York Times article Giants Say Captains Earn Respect



(8 minutes)

Think about a role model in your life, someone who supports or inspires you. In pairs, ask students to talk about this person and the qualities that make them a role model. Allow students to speak between a minute and two minutes each. Back in the big group, ask a few volunteers to share. 

Check Agenda 

(2 minutes)

Explain that in today's lesson you'll be looking at the Giants-Jets football rivalry,and the very different strategies these two teams and their coaches have used.


New York face off: 

Jets coach Rex Ryan vs. Giants Coach Tom Coughlin 

(20 minutes)

Split your class into groups of 4 to 5 students and provide each group with a large sheet of paper or flipchart. Instruct students to draw a chart with two columns. At the top of the left column, write the name of the Jets Coach, Rex Ryan. At the top of the right column, write the name of the Giants Coach, Tom Coughlin. Next ask students to read the Handout at the bottom of this lesson, and chart what they know about the two coaches, using the quotes from the Handout as needed.

Give each group about 10 minutes to read and to chart, then post the flipcharts and have a gallery walk, so that students get a chance to see each others' charts. 

Bring the class back together to debrief the activity by asking students some or all of the following questions:

  • What did you notice about the different charts? Discuss similarities and differences.
  • Was there anything that surprised you?
  • How would you summarize Rex Ryan's approach?
  • How would you summarize Tom Coughlin's approach?
  • How does this relate to leadership in general?
  • What are some of the characteristics you'd like to see in a leader?

Giants Say Captains Earn Respect 

(15 minutes)

Ask students to read the New York Times article Giants Say Captains Earn Respect.

Discuss the article with your class asking some or all of the following questions:

  • What are some of the core values on the Giants team?
  • What does the article say about the leadership of Giants team captains?
  • How are team captains selected on the Giants team?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • How do the Giants view their captains?
  • What are some of the roles the Giants captains play?


If you're a coach doing this lesson with your athletes, ask:
How do you think this relates to our team?

If you're a classroom teacher doing this lesson with your students, ask:
How do you think this relates to our classroom?


Handout: Two New York coaches 

"One, Jets' coach Rex Ryan, is big, brash and seems to go out of his way to stir up trouble... The other, Giants coach Tom Coughlin, is smaller, tight-lipped and makes discipline - his own and others' - a central tenet of his reign. It's tough to imagine a pair of coaches more opposite in style, yet Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin share the crucible of the metro region, share a stadium and ... share[d] a game that neither team c[ould] ... afford to lose. 


On coach Ryan

Quote 1:

"Rex Ryan has made a career out of talking smack without backing it up, and Saturday afternoon in a home game against the team that shares his stadium, the Jets coach added another chapter to his long legacy of not getting the job done. Ryan's team failed to deliver on its coach's empty promises once again, and once again, it was all his fault.

As he is wont to do, Ryan ran his mouth ad nauseum in the days leading up to the Jets' first showdown with the New York Giants since 2007 - guaranteeing a victory and declaring to the world that his team was the best in the city - but when the bitter rivals finally took the field, the Giants punched Ryan's loud mouth in. Not literally - but almost....

And it's that very talking - that baseless arrogance for which Ryan has become known - that cost Ryan and his team this game and may someday cost him his job... Ryan's loud mouth does nothing but fuel every team the Jets play, and the Jets simply aren't talented enough to back up what their coach is saying. And as long as Ryan keeps talking, his team is going to stay stuck in neutral. ..." 


Quote 2:

"Ryan's Jets, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate what has become a trademark knack of shooting themselves in the foot, which would seem to begin with their coach's habit of firing blindfolded from the mouth. Ryan capped his team's comedy of pre-Christmas errors Saturday by getting into a postgame shouting match with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who at one point in the exchange told him, 'Time to shut up, fat boy.'

The flying insults were thoroughly entertaining and all in an emotional vortex. But a coach should hold himself to a higher standard than getting into ineloquent squabbles with players and fans. If the Jets don't make the playoffs, and the chances are slim, Ryan will need to spend the off-season considering the likelihood that his team's disturbing lack of discipline ... begins with him."


Quote 3:

"The Jets have had more than their share of controversy during the Ryan regime, much of it brought on by Ryan or made worse by his handling of it. Strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped a Dolphins player near the sidelines during a game, only to have Ryan claim that he was unaware of the practices Alosi had implemented. Ryan's purported unawareness of what was going on with his own team came up again more recently when he contended he was unaware that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenhemier had pulled Santonio Holmes off the field during a critical drive in the last game of the season." 


Quote 4: 

"The New York Giants arrived at their own stadium [the one they share with the Jets] to the type of frosty welcome usually reserved for a road team. The mural of the Giants' Super Bowl trophies and logos on the wall in front of their locker room had been covered by black curtains. 

Rex Ryan didn't just want the Giants to know that the Jets were better than them. He wanted them to feel like an outsider in the home they share with the Jets. Unfortunately for Rex, it all backfired, playing right into Tom Coughlin's hands. The Giants, a team capable of flat-lining emotionally on any given Sunday (or in this case Saturday), played this game like it was an in-state college rivalry."


On coach Coughlin 

Quote 1:

"[Before the game] Coughlin was sitting down with Justin Tuck, or the mummified remains of Justin Tuck, and stirring the pride of a football player by touching the heart of a man. 'Give me all that you have,' Coughlin told Tuck, who went on and on Saturday evening about their little fireside chat, a conversation that threw open a window on Coughlin's 29-14 conquest of Ryan [the Jets coach].

When he was done serving as the Giants' king of pain, ignoring all of his bumps and bruises to honor a distinguished past, Tuck humanized Coughlin, spoke of him in endearing terms. He said it meant a ton that his coach took time out of his hectic schedule to meet with him, 'to let me know he was thinking about me and how I was feeling.' The same coach was once widely criticized for his tense, distant, and unforgiving approach.

"That did a number on me," Tuck said of the meeting. "You start thinking about a lot of stuff. You start thinking about your legacy. ... I've got a 21-month-old at home, and I want him to see me play the game the right way."

Yes, Coughlin got Tuck to play the right way, the way the pass rusher played when the Giants won it all. "He challenged me to lead this team," Tuck said, "and I think I did a good job of responding."

Quote 2:

"Let's give Coughlin, the old curmudgeon, the credit he deserves in the wake of the Giants' 29-14 victory over Rex Ryan's Jets on Saturday at MetLife Stadium. Coughlin endured Ryan's mouthy forecasts, the mounting possibility and pressure of facing unemployment, and the pain of a late-game sideline collision with his running back D. J. Ware. ...

The old-school Coughlin had reacted to the standard Ryan braggadocio early last week by saying that the ultimate statement would be made on the field. 'We won the game," he said, "that's the statement.'

Quote 3:

"Coughlin may have done one of his best coaching jobs of the season as well. The Giants had an outstanding week of practice. Several injured Giants practiced on Wednesday, even on a limited basis, to try to set the tone early, as Antrel Rolle had hoped for after last week's Washington debacle.

Coughlin also had a sitdown during the week with defensive captain Justin Tuck, who played his best game of the season with four tackles, one sack and two batted-down passes.

And late in the fourth quarter, Coughlin took a shot to his left leg when running back D.J. Ware was inadvertently shoved into him on the sideline during a run. To no one's surprise, the 65-year-old coach who preaches about toughness sat out a couple of plays to get his leg checked but then returned to the sideline and finished coaching the Giants to a season-extending victory over the Jets."



This lesson was written for by Marieke van Woerkom. We welcome your comments.