FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Rex Ryan they're not.
Had the New York Jets bested Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game, at least one of Super Bowl XLIV's head coaches would be spewing boisterous, entertaining and over-the-top comments. Instead, Jim Caldwell and Sean Payton have said nothing this week that would generate headlines or land on a locker-room billboard.
Not that the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints are complaining.
While neither will be getting featured in a Coors Light commercial any time soon, Caldwell and Payton have both brought their teams to the cusp of a Lombardi Trophy. And they've done it with a style that remains true to their personalities.
Like his coaching mentor Joe Paterno, Caldwell is football through and through. Caldwell is so meticulous that he still has all of the notebooks he filled while learning as an assistant coach. He doesn't use jokes to connect with players but provides biblical passages as motivation. He is stoic, straight-forward and sincere - three qualities that endeared him to Colts players in Caldwell's first season replacing the charismatic Tony Dungy.
"Pretty much, what you see is what you get," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. "He's not really a very emotional guy."
Payton is even more measured with what he tells the media and expects the same from his players and assistant coaches. Not wanting Gregg Williams to make any more inflammatory remarks about Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Payton sent his defensive coordinator a friendly reminder Tuesday at breakfast.
"The waiter gave me two big jars of peanut butter, saltine crackers and a glass full of sand to wash it down with," said Williams, who had talked about his defense giving Manning "remember me" shots in Sunday's matchup. "Maybe if I took all that stuff down I might be able to keep my mouth shut."
Payton also shows his fun-loving side to players. Borrowing an idea from the late Bill Walsh, Drew Brees and the Saints' seven Pro Bowl selections dressed as bellhops to meet the team busses upon their hotel arrival in Miami.
"We had a little trouble getting a few (suits) to fit, but I thought it was good," Payton said. "The message was, 'Hey, let's relax a little bit here. We've got a big week in front of us.' "
The 46-year-old Payton has title game experience from serving as the New York Giants' offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXXV, but this is his first trip as a head coach. In four years, Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis have resurrected a franchise that faced an uncertain future after Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005.
Payton found the ideal quarterback to run his multifaceted offense when the Saints signed Brees in free agency. Payton also has learned from some of his shortcomings. After failing to reach the playoffs the previous two seasons following a 2006 NFC Championship game run, Payton made significant changes that paid dividends in a 15-3 campaign. He forsook $250,000 of his coaching salary so the Saints could afford to hire Williams, who has effectively installed an aggressive, ball-hawking defense. Payton himself evolved into a more balanced play-caller. He worked diligently with New Orleans players to become a better fourth-quarter team. "Finish strong" became the Saints' motto.
"I marvel at the way he is able to say the perfect thing at the perfect moment whether it's a motivational word or an inspirational story," Brees said. "He always has his finger on the pulse of the team and knows the time to press forward and work or back off and have a little fun. He has a knack and ability to use humor or a joke to challenge or motivate you."
Caldwell faced a different challenge when hired by Indianapolis - replacing a celebrated figure like Dungy and keeping the same high level of success on a perennial playoff squad. Caldwell, 55, was a head coach at Wake Forest (1993 to 2000) and a Colts offensive assistant since 2002. But even though he was a familiar face and named Dungy's heir apparent in 2008, Colts players weren't sure exactly what to expect.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney remembers one of Caldwell's first team addresses. The Colts had grown so accustomed to the way Dungy ended his meetings that players began getting up before he was done talking. Some Colts tried doing the same thing with Caldwell only to learn their new boss wasn't finished speaking yet.
"Guys had to sit back down," a laughing Freeney said. "(Caldwell) didn't really know how to end the meeting so he kept on going. Now, he has it down better than Tony. He has it down to the point where when he says 'above all else,' we know it's the last thing he's going to say."
Although you could never tell by Indianapolis' 14-0 start, Caldwell's initial transition was bumpy. He raised eyebrows by firing Dungy's defensive coordinator and special teams coach. There were questions as to whether top offensive assistants Tom Moore and Howard Mudd would return (they did). Caldwell also had to earn his team's trust.
"Our team has learned about him this year in a leadership role," Manning said. "I certainly knew him as my quarterbacks coach, but I never knew him as the head coach and what kind of philosophies he was going to bring. The players have responded to his methods. Players play hard for him."
About the only thing controversial about Caldwell was his decision to rest starters at the end of the regular season rather than vie for a perfect record. Caldwell, though, was vindicated when the well-rested Colts won both their playoff games.
"You're hired to win Super Bowls. You're not hired to have outstanding seasons," Caldwell said Friday in his last pre-Super Bowl news conference. "There was a great coach in this league (Marty Schottenheimer) who got fired because he was 14-2 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. What does that tell you? It's pretty simple for me to understand that the most important thing is to get where we are today and have an opportunity to win it all."
That's something Ryan knows all too well.