Even if it means winning a Super Bowl, NFL players would prefer not to play for a tough coach. Consider Tom Coughlin who, after getting maligned for being too hard on players, won a Super Bowl last season. You'd think results would matter to other players.
Yet in this week's issue, Sports Illustrated polled 320 NFL players on which coach they'd least like to play for. Coughlin, with 16% of the vote, was well clear of runner-up Bill Belichick. The fact that the two coaches who battled for the Super Bowl last season, and are 12-4 this season, are shunned by players speaks to how little winning matters as a motivation for today's players.
Obviously players want to be treated with respect, something that Coughlin's been criticized for not doing in the past. For the last two years, though, the only player who seems to have a problem actually playing for Coughlin is Plaxico Burress, who had the same problems with Bill Cowher and would likely have the same problems with any coach on any team in any league. When you consider that the money and demands on your body will be roughly the same everywhere, it doesn't make sense that success doesn't rank higher on the list of considerations for a coach. You'd really rather play for Rod Marinelli or Herman Edwards?
It's interesting that Coughlin, Belichick and third and fourth-place finishers Eric Mangini and Tony Sparano are all members of the Bill Parcells family tree. Parcells himself finished fifth and does not have a warm, cuddly reputation for relationships with players. He does, however, have a reputation for winning football games. Leo Durocher once said that, in baseball, nice guys finish last. It's true in football, too.