Super Bowl coaches’ clashing styles easy to spot in teams’ play

01/30/2014 9:55 PM

11/12/2014 3:49 PM

Rare is the NFL team whose personality doesn’t reflect its head coach.

Vince Lombardi’s Packers, for example, were hard-nosed, blue-collar and seldom ruffled, even at 15-below.

Tom Landry’s Cowboys were a thinking man’s team, impeccably dressed and prepared.

Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia teams were brash and impudent.

Barry Switzer’s Cowboys teams were rough around the edges and, eventually, untamed.

Teams do reflect their coach’s personality, Denver’s mild-mannered John Fox agreed this Super Bowl week.

“I think they do,” he said. “I can’t say 100 percent, because you’re not dealing with an exact science — you’re dealing with people — but they do.”

The clash of styles, therefore, resonates this week as loudly as the Macklemore soundtrack that the Seattle Seahawks have been practicing to.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll is 62 years old, seemingly refusing to turn 40. His Seahawks are like a brood of unruly teenagers, rocking to his beat.

It’s a beat unlike any other NFL coach — a modern beat, somebody said to Carroll this week, though he didn’t seem comfortable with the word.

“I don’t know if it’s ‘modern,’ ” he said. “It’s just the only way I know how to do it. I understand that the guys do respond pretty favorably. They like what’s going on.

“We’ve created a culture that hopefully allows for guys to be at their best. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

He’s a “cool coach,” in other words — as in the “cool mom” that Hollywood likes to depict. It’s the mom with loose boundaries and few rules.

That’s the Carroll that I see. Those are the Seahawks, who led the NFL this season not only in total defense but also in pass interference and defensive holding penalties.

The Denver Broncos, on the other hand, seem to be a team of mature and measured restraint. Fox will turn 59 next week and, like a tenured professor, his age and experience show.

“We’re a team that’s not going to do too much talking,” Broncos veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “We’re a team that’s going to show the hard work on the field.

“That’s the kind of guy coach Fox is. He’s not a guy that’s going to do a lot of talking — rah-rah and get you fired up. But when he speaks, he speaks volumes.”

When Fox collapsed and underwent an open-heart valve procedure during the season, the Broncos carried on. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio left Fox’s chair open in the coaches’ meeting room. The team kept the same daily schedule. His locker remained untouched.

When Fox came back after four weeks — the Broncos went 3-1 during his absence, losing only to New England in overtime — “He was the same Coach Fox we knew. It was like he didn’t miss a beat,” running back Knowshon Moreno said.

Five other coaches have taken two different teams to a Super Bowl. Don Shula leads the list, followed by Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil and Mike Holmgren. Fox, who took Carolina to Super Bowl XXXVIII, is in pretty good company.

His defenses in Denver play a basic 4-3, with mostly zone pass coverages and an average amount of blitzing. Carroll’s defense, meanwhile, is in its opponent’s face from the pregame warm-ups, as the Saints’ Jimmy Graham learned.

Seattle’s Legion of Boom plays with a chip on its shoulder and its emotion on its sleeve. They seem like 11 angry men.

Carroll himself doesn’t appear to be angry, but he clearly can get under people’s skin.

Against Buffalo, the Seahawks ran a fake punt in the fourth quarter with a 30-point lead. While at USC, while killing the clock in the final seconds, Carroll had his quarterback fake taking a knee and throw another touchdown pass against UCLA.

But he’s a “cool” coach. Just listen to him.

Rare is the team whose personality doesn’t mirror its head coach.

The contrasts resonate loudly this Super Bowl week. And it’s not just the practice music.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton

@gilebreton

Whether it's pondering Moose McNuggets at the McDonald's in Norway or chasing Lance Armstrong up some mountaintop in France, Gil LeBreton has been entertaining Star-Telegram readers for nearly 30 years. He's covered 21 Super Bowls, 14 Olympic Games (summer and winter), saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

Email Gil at gilebreton@star-telegram.com

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