Giants assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox answers questions from...

Giants assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox answers questions from reporters during training camp in East Rutherford, N.J., Tuesday, August 9, 2022. Credit: Noah K. Murray

If you’ve ever seen Bryan Cox play a football game, you’ll know his level of intensity. He went a hundred miles an hour on every play. He willed his teammates to increase their effort. He constantly yelled at opposing players. And opposing fans, too.

After the Dolphins’ 22-13 win over the Bills in Buffalo in 1993, the former Miami linebacker flipped off the fans on his way off the field and reiterated his disdain for Buffalo when asked after the game if he was kidding about his pre-game remarks when he said, "I don’t like the Buffalo Bills as a team, I don’t like them as people, I don’t like the city, and I don’t like their organization.”  

“Hell, no, that ain’t gonna change,” he told reporters. “Even when I die, that’s not gonna change, and I don’t kid about stuff like that.”

From then to now, it has been a remarkable transformation, and the Giants are now benefiting from a more circumspect man in his role on the team’s coaching staff. Cox was hired by Brian Daboll to be the Giants’ assistant defensive line coach, and he is now handling the leading role along the line in the absence of Andre Patterson, who is on leave dealing with a medical issue.

“I think five years ago, my coaching style was almost exactly like my playing style,” Cox said Tuesday as he prepared for Thursday’s preseason opener against the Patriots in Foxborough. “But I think with some growth and a lot of therapy and working with guys like [Giants defensive coordinator] Wink [Martindale] and Andre Patterson, who has kind of mentored me, it’s been really good and really different from what I am used to.”

Cox is not nearly as demonstrative on the sidelines and on the practice field working with players than he was as a player. He’ll calmly offer teaching points, explaining in straightforward terms what he wants, as opposed to getting in someone’s face the way he once did.

He used to think his best way of getting through to players was to react with the kind of intensity he showed during his NFL career, but through time and introspection, he has come to realize that this isn’t the best way to reach players who are simply trying to improve their game. Even if his passions are sometimes ignited if he sees mistakes being made.

“I can still run hot, but I think what I am learning is that nobody is trying to mess up,” he said. “When you look at it from a player’s perspective who is now coaching, it may have been easier for you, or some things were just natural for you that are maybe not natural for the guy you are coaching now. You have to have some patience. You have to have some understanding. And you have to be able to just talk to the guys. If you can communicate and be in a situation where you clearly lay out expectations, and you get in a situation where you tell them the expectation and the standard you are trying to live up to, then it becomes easy.”

The bottom line for Cox is just as it was when he played: “Great players want to be great, regardless of what generation they’re in.”

And what would a younger, more hot-tempered Cox say about the more mature coach he has turned into?

“I would say this: If I was at my age now at 54, and I thought like the younger Bryan Cox, I’d be an old fool,” he said. “At some point, you have to grow. You have to change. You have to mature. I think that’s been the case.”

And now, after a five-year hiatus from coaching following 11 years as an assistant with the Jets, Browns, Dolphins, Buccaneers and Falcons, Cox has resumed his career in a much better place.

“I was with Bryan when he was a player, and he was one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen,” Daboll said. “As a linebacker, he was smart, tough, dependable. He’s a very loyal person. He’s smart. He’s played a lot. I thought he could add value to the staff.”

He’s adding even more value in the absence of Patterson, as Cox oversees a defensive line that includes Pro Bowl tackle Leonard Williams, former first-round pick Dexter Lawrence and rookie pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. And it is a reawakening for Cox himself.

“It feels wonderful to be back in ball,” he said. “This is what I love. This is my passion. To be with somebody like Dabes is really good. He was a guy who kind of reached out and touched base and saw how I was doing and what I was doing, all those kinds of things. Just excited to be back.”

Good to have him back.