Coach Meyer: Championship Coaches

With Ron Meyer


I have to admit that this weekend's games have presented quite a challenge for me in terms of separating the head coaches.

In the AFC championship, we have two coaches who's on field styles are so similar that it's hard to find much meaningful separation. In the NFC championship, we have two coaches who are just as well known for their coaching weaknesses as they are their strengths.

Let's break it down and see what we can find...

NY Jets: Rex Ryan
Pittsburgh: Mike Tomlin

Two smash mouth guys, who you figure would smash you in the mouth if you crossed them. I think this is the main reason you don't here the Jets doing much trash talking this week. They have a lot of respect for the Steelers because both teams play the same way. Some would argue they play the"right" way in terms of old school physicality and intimidation. The Jets HATE the Patriots because they're a finesse team that belongs in the chess club. The Jets and Steelers are the same team.

It's tempting to give Tomlin an edge in postseason experience because he's been to the Super Bowl and won it. The problem with that is that the Jets have more playoff wins in the playoffs than Pittsburgh does since Ryan took over. New York went 2-1 last year, and is 2-0 so far this year. Pittsburgh was frankly pretty lucky to get past Baltimore last week after digging such a big hole. Do you see Tomlin as being the better postseason coach right now?

To me, this is a wash. It's going to be a very hard hitting game. The bounce of the ball after those hard hits will determine who wins and covers. That's out of the control of the head coaches. Either is capable of creative wrinkles on offense. Both defenses are trained to deal with wrinkles.

I think both of these coaches deserve a lot of respect. I mentioned before the season started that the Jets were in danger of imploding under a blowhard head coach like Ryan. Let's give credit where it's due. They danced with danger, and punched it in the mouth!

Handicapping this game will be all about evaluating the true worth of home field advantage deep in the playoffs, and the letdown potential the Jets might have after beating the Pats. The coaching cancels out.

Green Bay: Mike McCarthy
Chicago: Lovie Smith

I know many gamblers out here in Las Vegas who don't trust either guy. McCarthy has had some well documented issues with clock management. And, his play calling can surprise at the worst possible times. Lovie Smith has tried to give those responsibilities to others because he was so bad at them. But, he still has made questionable play challenge decisions with the red flag.

Obviously these guys have had a lot of success, so they're obviously doing something right. Lovie Smith is a defensive genius (and motivator), so his teams will always have a fighting chance to get a win. (He's really very similar to the AFC survivors in that regard). McCarthy has built offenses and defenses so strong that they can overcome the questionable choices that he occasionally does make. When Aaron Rodgers is on, there's just no way to screw it up.

To me, this cancels out in a different way than the other game. We obviously don't have clone teams who both play the same way. But, we have clear strengths and worrisome weaknesses that could also cancel out. I don't think this game will come down to the coaches either. Can Chicago's defense shut down Aaron Rodgers? Helped by freezing weather? Note that the Packers only scored 10 points at home against this Bears team a few weeks ago. And, Green Bay lost on this field earlier this season thanks to a late turnover. Chicago HAS shown an ability to slow down Rodgers. Will it be enough to cover?

I promised you before the postseason started that I'd evaluate the coaching matchups in every single college bowl and pro playoff game. I wish we had some clear differences to deal with this weekend. The"creative" types like Bill Belichick or Andy Reid aren't around. Up-and-comers like Mike Smith and John Harbaugh came and went. I think the Super Bowl will give us more to talk about, particularly since two of the coaches left have been there, and two haven't.

That's the next time I'll talk football here in my web articles. A few days before the Super Bowl. I will have a VERY big play for you this Sunday here at the website. Be sure you log in a few hours before kickoff to get my CHAMPIONSHIP PARLAY. I'm providing basketball seven-days-a-week to clients who have seen for themselves that a former football coach can pick ANY sport because the fundamentals of winning are universal!

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