Commentary

Taking their cues from the top

Contrast in style between Patriots and Jets a reflection of the coaches

Updated: September 18, 2009, 12:25 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For those who believe that football teams take on the personality of their head coach, Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Jets is compelling in that it is a drastic contrast in styles.

On one side, there's the businesslike Bill Belichick. On the other, it's cut-it-loose Rex Ryan.

Their teams follow their cue.

[+] EnlargeBill Belichick
David Butler II/US PresswireBill Belichick's Patriots teams are a reflection of his workmanlike attitude and approach.

The Patriots keep things close to the vest, regularly speaking about the respect they have for the opposition, often repeating the same lines week after week. They could make the winless 2008 Lions sound like a team filled with Pro Bowlers.

Meanwhile, the Jets talk so boastfully about themselves that opponents have to carve out more space in the locker room for bulletin-board material. The most recent verbal bombs came Thursday when safety Kerry Rhodes told the New York Daily News that the Jets don't just want to beat the Patriots, they want to embarrass them.

The differences are notable, and they trace back to the head coaches.

Former NFL tight end Kyle Brady, who played 13 seasons under five different head coaches, noticed how his teams reflected their coach, most recently with Belichick's Patriots in 2007.

"He is dead serious about winning, dead serious about paying attention to details, meticulous in his preparation and willing to make whatever commitment it takes in regards to the time and effort to be prepared," said Brady, who now works for the Big Ten network as a football analyst. "Those are all facets of his personality and you see those come out in his team.

"There is nothing flashy and that's Bill Belichick's approach -- day to day, let's get down to work, down to business, what you did yesterday doesn't matter, it's what you do today. It's very businesslike and his teams take on that mentality."

Brady relayed that when players walk through the door at Gillette Stadium, they are greeted by a sign that reads "Work hard, do your job, and put the team first."

"Those are Belichick's mantras," Brady said, "and his team is about that."

In New York, Ryan has loosened up what had been a tense locker room by telling players he wants them to be themselves and have fun. He encourages them to let their personalities show, which Ryan himself has done by verbally sparring with Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder in the press and uttering his headline-grabbing line about not coming to New York to kiss Belichick's Super Bowl rings.

Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez referred to Ryan's direct approach as "blunt-force trauma."

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Rich Kane/Icon SMIRookie head coach Rex Ryan has brought fire to the Jets with an approach quarterback Mark Sanchez calls "blunt-force trauma."

"That's the mentality he wants us to have," Sanchez said. "We want to be tough and we want to be as physical as possible and he doesn't want us bowing down to anyone. That's the guy I'm following and we need to take on his kind of attitude as well."

Belichick wants the same thing out of his team, but goes about it differently. Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Patriots coach Raymond Berry points to Belichick's sideline presence as one area that sends an important message to his club.

"He does one heck of a job in keeping an even keel, staying the same. When you watch his demeanor, you hardly see anything different; he's totally focused. That in itself communicates a lot to a team," Berry said.

Kyle Brady points out that both styles can work, depending on the makeup of the team.

Most of his career was spent around rigid coaches who had similar philosophies -- Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin and Belichick. He also played under Rich Kotite and Jack Del Rio.

Each set the tone in his own way.

"Any organization is going to take on the character of the leaders and it's the same in football, as the team becomes an extension of the coach," Kyle Brady said. "Parcells used to say that to us. He'd tell us that he wanted us to be an extension of his desires, an extension of what he'd want done on the field.'"

In the case of the 2009 Jets and Patriots, the differences couldn't be more noticeable. Thus, there will be more than bodies colliding on Sunday, but also contrasting styles from the head coaches.

Blunt-force trauma meets a more calculating, businesslike approach.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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