Coughlin, the brash Giants head coach, offers a very different style from his counterpart with the Jets. His colonel-like attitude hasn't always been good for public relations, particularly with his sideline outbursts at punters, but Coughlin's results have exceeded Ryan's. And in the New York/New Jersey sports scene, results are king.
Not far behind the win column, though, is the desire for personality, and Ryan is overloaded with that. He's got the confidence of a politician, the mouth of a truck driver and the arrogance of a prize fighter — all of which is great for his persona in the good times, but a nightmare in bouts of defeat.
Ryan, who took over a nine-win team from a stale Eric Mangini, was the king of the city during his first two and a half years on the job, but things have really taken a turn for the worse in the last month. The Jets locker room completely imploded, and future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson hinted Ryan's trash-talking ways might have been a deterrent to their success. Meanwhile, Coughlin has the Giants heading to their second Super Bowl in the last five seasons.
While the Jets are trying to pick up the pieces from an 8-8 season — their worst record in three years under Ryan, as well as their first missed playoff appearance — Coughlin has gotten his team back to the NFL's greatest stage, and the timing of it all has been harmonious for the Giants, who didn't get to the playoffs during Ryan's first two seasons in New York.
Ryan had the Jets in back-to-back AFC Championship Games in that span, yet his regular-season record in the last three years (28-20) has only been a tick better than Coughlin's (27-21).
Coughlin, who took over a four-win team, has led the Giants to a 74-54 record in eight regular seasons. The 74 victories are the eighth most in the NFL since 2004, and their 81 total victories over that span are the seventh most in the league.
However, before this season, 2007 was the only year when Coughlin had won a playoff game — of course, that worked out well, as the Giants won the Super Bowl — and he had three one-and-dones, plus three years when they fell short of the postseason. There have been at least two instances when it's appeared that he was close to getting fired, including this season, when the Giants lost four straight to the 49ers, Eagles, Saints and Packers.
Coughlin's room for error might be slimmer than Ryan's, as the Jets head coach has bought the good graces of the fan base with his likeable personality. But if things don't improve in 2012, there will be serious concerns about whether or not his coaching style can work over an extended period of time, and the Jets could be faced with a difficult decision.
Yet, if Ryan gets his Jets back into the playoffs, that likeability factor will again work in his favor, while Coughlin's approval rating seems to solely based on his wins and losses. This season, though, Coughlin has regained his perch on the top of New York's football coaching hierarchy as he's brought the Giants back to the Super Bowl.