The Giants are playing for their conference championship on Sunday; the Jets are not.
There are many reasons, but one of them has to do with change and self-control. The Giants know how to effect growth; the Jets do not.
Let us go backwards more than four years to Tom Coughlin, who often seemed so miserable that a reporter listening to his rants might feel like putting an arm around him and leading him away from the podium, saying, “There – there – there.”
The Giants, and Coughlin’s family, could see how tortured he was, from too many years in the foul dungeons of football.
I caught up with the Giants in London in October of 2007, fresh off their flight from New York, for the league game with Miami. I expected Coughlin to be a basket case because of the enforced trans-Atlantic flight. Instead, he smiled and said a professional had to live with circumstances.
Surely, I wrote, this is the only man in the world who thrives on jet lag. He was a somewhat modified Tom Coughlin. And the Giants won the Super Bowl that season. Beat New England. Cause and effect? Partially.
It turned out that after the 2006 season, Pat Hanlon, one of the best team PR people in sports, had put Coughlin in a room with some sportswriters familiar with the team. (I was not one of them.) Later, Coughlin described that meeting:
“One of the things that punched me in the nose was when one columnist told me, ‘You act as if you really don’t have time for us,’ ” Coughlin said. “That really stuck in my craw. I have a coach’s ethic about hard work. I thought to myself, I can be more patient.”
I have no idea what else happened with Coughlin between seasons. I do know that the hybrid ownership of the House of Mara and the House of Tisch is back in the conference title game, partially because their coach learned to relax just a trifle.
The Jets, after two straight appearances in the conference title game, regressed this season. Part of that is directly traceable to the undisciplined behavior from the players and the head coach.
Rex Ryan sets the signals. And the management of the Jets seems blind to the negative impact Ryan ultimately has on his players. He pops off. His players pop off. When an old pro like LaDainian Tomlinson says the locker room is in chaos, this is a sure sign things are bad.
The Jets’ management needs to find a way to get through to Ryan. Talent isn’t everything. The Jets need to take a look at themselves, the way I think the Giants did. Is growth possible for this current bunch of Jets? Unclear.