EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When it comes to trash talking about bragging rights for New York, Tom Coughlin and the Giants are going to yield to Rex Ryan and the Jets.
Ryan and the Jets (8-6) can call themselves the big brothers in the metropolitan area or say they are the better team all they want. The Giants (7-7) don’t care. The only thing important for both teams is winning Saturday and keeping their playoffs hopes alive.
And make no mistake, both are desperate.
“I just say, regardless of the talk, it will be decided at one o’clock Saturday afternoon,” Coughlin said on Wednesday. “Regardless of what is said. Talk is cheap, play the game. That is the way I’ve always believed.”
If the sentence sounds familiar, that’s the one that Coughlin had printed on T-shirts in 2007, the season the Giants knocked off the-then undefeated Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
The Giants found their stride late in that season and they need to rediscover themselves once again after losing five of six games, lowlighted by a dismal effort last week in a 23-10 loss to Washington that knocked Coughlin’s team a game behind Dallas (8-6).
Entering the penultimate week of the season, the Giants know what they have to do. If they beat the Jets this week and Dallas here next weekend, they will capture the division and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Two wins probably will make the Jets a playoff team again, and Ryan hasn’t been shy in letting everyone he knows his team is better than the Giants. His reasoning is simple. The Jets have gone to the AFC title game the past two seasons. The Giants have watched the postseason on TV.
“That’s the old saying: ‘Talk is cheap, money buys whiskey,’” Ryan said reacting to Coughlin’s statement. “I understand all of that. You know, that’s the truth, but I don’t care about Tom Coughlin or anybody else. I know what I believe and I don’t care if it’s acceptable or everybody’s opinion. I really don’t care. I’m worried about my opinion. This is how I feel. Quite honestly, I could care less what anybody thinks.”
The Giants feel the same way about Ryan.
“That is just Rex being Rex,” Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said. “You can’t read into it. He does everything he needs to do to get his team fired up and you can’t blame him. If that is what he feels like he has to do, then he has to do it. They are a team that needs to make the playoffs and we are a team that needs to make the playoffs as well. It is going to be a dogfight.”
When asked why the Jets mouth off, Jacobs didn’t hesitate to say that may be the only way they can convince themselves about something they really don’t believe.
Punter Steve Weatherford played for Jets before coming to the Giants this season, so he has a good feel for Ryan and Coughlin.
For starters, Weatherford said Ryan will never tell his players to be careful about what they say. Coughlin is more cautious.
“One thing that has been synonymous with the New York Giants is being a classy underdog,” Weatherford said. “I am not taking anything away from Rex because I think the way he motivates is good, too, and obviously both coaches have been successful. I think Tom thrives on being a guy who quietly wins. He doesn’t put a target on his back, and like I said, there is more than one way to win.”
What is obvious with both teams is that they mimic their coaches in dealing with the media.
Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee, who is Coughlin’s son-in-law, said that’s not uncommon.
“They want their types of guys and obviously they are always delivering a message,” Snee said. “Ours just happens to be talk is cheap. That’s what we do.”
While quarterback Eli Manning is similar to Coughlin in his demeanor, he said he would probably be the same whether Coughlin or Ryan was coaching the Giants.
However, he said players tend to be like their coaches.
“You try to have his attitude,” Manning said. “Whatever he expresses to his team, the way he conducts himself, that’s the way he wants his team prepared and run. I think that’s the mindset of a lot of the players around here also. Maybe not everyone, but a majority of ones, we don’t have to say a whole lot. We’re just going to go out there and play our best football.”
If there was anything surprising Wednesday with the Giants, it was that even safety Antrel Rolle was following the coach’s lead and letting the Jets be the motor mouths this week.
“I think that’s the attitude of their team,” Rolle said. “Rex is the head coach and I think they pretty much feed off Rex. What works for them, that’s fine. We understand that talk is not going to do a whole lot. But the game still has to be played on Saturday. We’ll let our play do our talking for us.”