Belichick respects Coughlin, Giants

INDIANAPOLIS -- The hoodie is gone. So is the scowl. Something, something scary, has happened to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

For the second straight day, the New England coach wore a suit and tie when he met with the media. And for the second straight day, he actually seemed to be having a good time as he talked about his team and its upcoming game against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. At his news conference Monday, Belichick smiled at reporters, gave thoughtful multi-syllabic answers and, at times, was -- can we say it? -- almost charming.

Maybe it has to do with his opponent. There seems to be something about the Giants that brings out the best in Belichick. Unlike that other New York team, the Giants are an organization that Belichick respects. And he sounded almost nostalgic Monday in talking about his years as a Giants assistant coach.

Belichick painted an almost idyllic picture of his days working with Giants coach Tom Coughlin when both were assistants on Bill Parcells' staff. Belichick earned two Super Bowl rings during his 12-year stint with the team, serving as special-teams coach, defensive assistant and defensive coordinator before leaving for a head-coaching job in Cleveland in 1991. Coughlin was the Giants' receivers coach from 1988-90.

On the surface, the two should not have much in common. They coached players on opposite sides of the ball and also had different pedigrees. Belichick is the son of a college coach, and after going to college, he went straight to the Baltimore Colts. Coughlin started off at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he had to help with the upkeep of the field, and went 14 years before his first NFL job.

Yet in the three seasons they spent together, something clicked between the two.

"We worked together every day in one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens," Belichick said. "I would run the coverages the way he wanted them run, based on who we were playing, and he would run the patterns the way I asked him. I would say that as an assistant coach, it was the best relationship that I have ever had with another counterpart."

As he goes for his fourth Super Bowl win, Belichick has been reflecting on his career and his roots. In an NFL Network documentary aired in September, Belichick nearly came to tears while talking about his time with the Giants. He seemed almost wistful talking about his time with Coughlin.

He also has made it clear to his players just how special he thinks the Giants are and his time with the team was. He talks about how they practiced every day in pads, and about the toughness of Jumbo Elliott, Mark Bavaro and Lawrence Taylor.

"We hear about those guys a lot," wide receiver Deion Branch said with an exaggerated eye roll. "We know exactly how tough those guys were. That was a different era, and he's had to make some adjustments to how things are today. But we still hear about it."

And will continue to hear about it at least another week.

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