AFC rookie coaches utilize opposite styles
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jim Caldwell is as comfortable being a soft-spoken offensive wizard as Rex Ryan is as a brash defensive guru.
Like their styles or not, the contrasting rookie coaches have their teams in the AFC Championship Game with a Super Bowl berth on the line Sunday.
"You might try to draw parallels between Rex and I, or our two teams, in how they handle different situations," said Caldwell, the Indianapolis Colts' coach. "The great thing about this game is that it requires an immense amount of authenticity, so you have to be who you are."
That's what Ryan has been saying since the day he was hired as the New York Jets' coach a year ago. Yes, he'll say what's on his mind and make some cringe with his confident and sometimes-outlandish statements. Ryan is also quick to point out that this is who he's always been, and he's not changing now.
"I think you better believe in yourself, you better believe in your football team," Ryan said. "That's all it is. There's never a disrespectful thing. I don't try to say anything disrespectful to the opponents that we're playing."
Ryan's daily news conferences are guaranteed to get at least one chuckle. With the AFC Championship Game two days away, Ryan was still as loose as ever Friday, poking fun at himself — as always.
"I always go into men's stores and I'm like, 'Where's your men's section at?"' the rotund Ryan said. "It's like, 'What do you mean• We have double-X.' And, I'm like, 'Yeah, who is that supposed to fit?' It's tough."
Meanwhile, Caldwell takes a less-colorful, more humble approach, staying away from controversy. Instead, he's looked upon by his players as a nice guy who communicates well, but in his own low-key way.
"These seasons are too long to pretend," Caldwell said. "The emotion involved in this game will strip away all that veneer, and you are who you are. That's who we are. That's how we've always handled things. Maybe someone chooses to do things differently, but that's because it serves them, and that's what they feel comfortable with."
Don't mistake Caldwell's laid-back personality for not being competitive, though.
"One of the things he has preached to us this year is that we are going to be the hunters," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. "No matter what someone else has to play for, no matter what attitude, bravado, whatever it is they bring in here, we are going to be the hunters."
That certainly was the case earlier this season, when Caldwell led the Colts to a 14-0 start. His only bout with controversy came when he pulled Peyton Manning and his other stars against the Jets with a perfect season still in their sights.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," Caldwell said. "Our objective was to put us in the best position to win the first game of the playoffs. That was key."
Brackett describes Caldwell as a funny guy, someone who uses one-liners in team meetings. Tight end Dallas Clark thinks Caldwell's demeanor was perfect for the Colts after years with a similar guy in Tony Dungy.
"We love it," Clark said. "That's kind of what we've been used to with Coach Dungy. It's kind of been the norm around here, the coach that's on the quieter side. I think guys respond well. The transition from Coach Dungy to Coach Caldwell was pretty easy for us."
Jets tight end Ben Hartsock played parts of three seasons with the Colts, back when Caldwell was the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach under Dungy.
"Coach Caldwell comes from the Dungy lineage, so there's much more of a level, no ups, no downs, even-keel throughout the whole time," Hartsock said. "Rex is obviously a little more boisterous."
The contrasts don't end there. Ryan paid his dues working at low-level colleges before becoming an assistant under his father, Buddy, with the Arizona Cardinals. His stock rose when he helped turn Baltimore into a defensive force, but struck out on interviews for head coaching jobs until the Jets hired him.
Caldwell took a different path, working as an assistant at big-time colleges under guys like Joe Paterno at Penn State, Howard Schnellenberger at Louisville and Bill McCartney at Colorado. He also was a head coach for eight seasons at Wake Forest before joining Dungy in Tampa Bay and following him to Indianapolis in 2002.
"Both teams have earned this opportunity, and it's just going to be a great game," Ryan said. "It's going to be a great matchup."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers offensive line targeting injury-free performance as key
- Former Steelers kicker Reed doesn’t like new NFL PAT rule
- Steelers’ Heyward looking to stay for long haul
- Steelers interested in playing internationally again
- Steelers claim QB-turned-WR Gardner
- Starkey: Clayton, Steelers and ‘Shouldergate’
- Steelers guard Foster likes offense’s direction heading into season
- Steelers’ Lemon hopes to put squeeze on opposing QBs