CINCINNATI - Even when he was 12 years old, Tom Coughlin was Tom Coughlin.

The Giants coach revealed on Tuesday that he wrote a note to legendary Browns head coach Paul Brown when he was that age, offering a breakdown of the 1958 playoff game between the Browns and the Giants (the Giants won, 10-0, a week before losing "the greatest game ever played" to the Colts). What made the biggest impression on Coughlin, though, was what he got in return.

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"I sent him a note and he sent one back," Coughlin said while standing outside Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals and site of this week's joint training camp practices. "That was the highlight of someone of his stature of that time reacting to me sitting there critiquing his game at the age of, like, 12."

The exchange clearly had an impact on Coughlin, a student of the game's history. Brown, a Hall of Fame coach after whom the Cleveland franchise was named, was a founder of the Bengals. He also was a legendary innovator in the sport: the first coach to use game film to scout opponents, hire a full-time staff of assistants, and designer of the modern facemask.

"Tremendous history," Coughlin said. "All you have to do is think about the man's success and his career, way back in the beginning, high school."

It's an impact that continues today through Coughlin.