Commentary

Rolle likes Rex? Can you blame him?

Giant picks Ryan's style over Coughlin's -- and we very much doubt he's the only one

Updated: January 18, 2011, 11:17 PM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

Thank you, Antrel Rolle.

Finally, a member of the New York Giants stood up and said what so many of his teammates are thinking and what so many of us have felt for a long time about coach Tom Coughlin: He's no fun.

Better yet, Coughlin, 64, is a stick in the mud, an old fuddy-duddy.

Of course, none of this talk will look good, especially coming from an outspoken, so-so safety against a Super Bowl-winning coach. That's why teammate and fellow safety Kenny Phillips, who also had some nice things to say about New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, had to clarify his comments on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Tuesday night.

In this day and age, you aren't supposed to answer anything honestly, especially if you are a professional athlete and you are asked a question about your coach.

But that's what happened during an interview with Miami radio station WQAM. Rolle said he likes Coughlin as a person but he still would like to see him loosen up.

"Honestly, that's where the problem comes in with me, as a coach," Rolle told WQAM. "Since I've been playing the game since the age of 6, to me it's never been about money, it's never been about anything more than winning and having fun."

When asked whether he is having fun playing for Coughlin, Rolle said, "Honestly, I'm not having fun."

Enter Ryan.

Phillips, who was with Rolle during the interview, said Ryan looks like a fun coach to play for. "I would love to play for a guy like Rex," Phillips said. "He goes to bat for his players. He'll take the blame; he allows you to be you. He's not asking you to hide. If you're a guy that likes to talk, go out and talk, long as you back it up. Like [Rolle] said, his guys are playing for him, and I'd love to be a part of that."

Coughlin/Rolle
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAntrel Rolle didn't have flattering things to say about Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Good for him.

There is nothing wrong with what either said. For sure, it's not treason. Both are Giants and want to be Giants. They just looked at the other team in town and liked what they saw from the Jets' coach more than what they saw from their own. It's just plain honesty.

And let's face it. Coughlin had a one-way bus ticket out of New York during the 2007 season before his Giants pulled off that miracle Super Bowl championship, beating the New England Patriots, who entered the game undefeated.

Before that great postseason run, players were growing tired of Coughlin's military act.

This isn't the army. It is sports. It's supposed to be fun. Players aren't robots and have different personalities. Not every player is a quiet church mouse. People should be allowed to express themselves -- even if it's loud and perhaps what others don't want to hear.

All the naysayers yelled from the rooftops and on sports-talk radio nonstop that Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had put his foot in his mouth by bashing Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady before the big playoff game Sunday. Many believed it was dumb and that Cromartie's harsh words would fuel Brady even more to beat the Jets.

It didn't happen.

Those people were nowhere to be found Monday, of course. Best of all, Cromartie, who was simply being honest and not putting on an act, backed up his big talk with even bigger play on the field.

If you talk a big game and can't back it up, you won't be in the league for long. Still, players should be allowed to be themselves. It's not the case. It's why so many call the NFL the No Fun League.

That's why you can bet many NFL players, not just Rolle and Phillips, are watching Ryan in action and fantasizing about playing for that dude. Free agents with free spirits will look at the Jets now -- a major plus because many will bring their big talents with their big mouths.

Team owners can kid themselves all they want. They can hire a person they can most relate to as their coach. But in all honesty, the players have to be able to relate to the coach much more.

Sometimes, you have to listen to the players. In this case, Rolle hit the nail on the head when it comes to Coughlin. There was no need for clarity. We got it.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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