They are two coaches renown for their ultra-intense, workaholic personalities. But there is this one major difference between Dick Vermeil and Tom Coughlin: Vermeil is older, has twice previously experienced coaching burnout, and has since mellowed into a coach with a grandfatherly approach to the game.
That was far from the case when Vermeil left UCLA to take the reins of the hapless Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. Then, his image was that of a maniac coach who cut players on the field, slept in his office and teetered on the brink of emotional exhaustion.
"I'm not as intense. I'm not as emotional. I think I do a better job of understanding the situation and the individual involved, and I think I do a better job of maintaining a positive, realistic outlook in regard to what has to be done to get this thing turned around," Vermeil told reporters this week.
Vermeil is in his first year as Kansas City's head coach. He retired following his Rams' Super Bowl win three seasons ago, sat out a season, then came out of retirement to rebuild the Chiefs. But that will take time and Vermeil will rely on his patience, a virtue he was not thought to possess when he was a young coach.
This Sunday, Vermeil's Chiefs will face Coughlin's Jaguars at Alltel Stadium. The two coaches offer an interesting study because most believe Coughlin must adopt some of Vermeil's "inner peace" attitude if Coughlin is to emotionally survive the rebuilding process that'll begin in Jacksonville this offseason.
"I think if you, as a leader, don't demonstrate the poise and confidence that you know what you're doing and that you can turn this thing around and we'll eventually win, and use the adversity as a tool to get better, then your football team is going to go down the drain. I think the last three games (for the Jaguars) is a tremendous reflection on Tom Coughlin and (his) coaching staff; their resilience, their toughness and their patience. To win three in a row on the road is a very, very positive reflection on Tom and his coaches," Vermeil said.
The 5-9 Chiefs hail Vermeil's ultra-positive, ultra-supportive personality. Vermeil has kept his team focused on this season by selling the concept of doing it for next season.
"We're doing all this not just for this year, but for next year as well," quarterback Trent Green said. "The fact that nobody's giving up says a lot about an organization. You can say the same thing about Jacksonville."
Vermeil and the Chiefs, and Coughlin and the Jaguars are in somewhat of an endurance test. They are rebuilding, which requires time, patience and emotional endurance. Intensity must be bridled.