There is a formula to everything Tom Coughlin does.
From a young age, he studied, football icons such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and Ben Schwartzwalder on how to model an organization. It was Schwartzwalder that Coughlin played for at Syracuse. He later fine-tuned this formula during his time with Bill Parcells, and the rest is history.
So how does a 65-year old coach, who played under a member of the 82nd Airborne that parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, apply that same axiom to a University of Miami product?
"It's very sophisticated," Coughlin said on Monday about this formula. "The way in which people are evaluated and the feeling that, 'Yes, the need is there. Is this the kind of person that we want wearing the New York Giant uniform?' There is a definite, definite formula to it."
Antrel Rolle apparently fit the system.
Signed before last season, Rolle was coming off his first of two Pro Bowl selections as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. As the team suffered its highs and lows in 2010, Rolle became frustrated and never shied from voicing it.
Fast forward to Monday, hours after the New Year's Day victory over Dallas that clinched the NFC East, Rolle is coming off two of his best games as a Giant. He knows why.
"I have many different reasons I play as hard as I do," Rolle said. "And I'll be honest to say that one of them is coach Coughlin. We didn't get off to the best of the best start – not saying anything about him as a person because I've always loved coach Coughlin as a person. But you know we didn't agree on certain things. He's his own person, and I'm my own person."
Rolle said he "definitely" thought New York might not be the right fit, but he found a common goal with his teammates and coaches – to win a championship.
"I think it more had to do with me as opposed to him," said Rolle, who was seconds away from winning Super Bowl XLII against the Steelers. "I was never used to this coaching staff, and I admit I was extremely frustrated at times and a lot of things I probably didn't agree with. It was a different situation all the way around, and really I didn't know how to handle it."
Admittedly, it took time this offseason for Rolle to get his mind right.
He consulted friends and family, and the general consensus on how to handle the situation was for him to just be part of the group and then see how it turns out this season.
"[My Mom] is like, you know, 'Antrel, you're in a golden opportunity,'" Rolle continued. "'You're in the best situation, the best place you can possibly be to play and even establish something for life after football. So just make sure you go out there and don't let anyone take you out of your game. Just be yourself, don't try to do too much and just play ball.'"
Rolle, who was moved from cornerback to safety in Arizona, has been asked to play a wide array of positions as a member of the Giants as well, ranging from nickel to "bison" linebacker.
While he's wearing all those hats and carrying the burden as a strong voice in the locker room, Rolle got away from what he was. It took 12-year vet and fellow safety Deon Grant to have him take a step back. This long conversation took place before the Jets game, and Deon Grant sat him down, telling him he appreciates all he's trying to do but let his play do the talking.
The Giants went out and put together one of their best defensive efforts and won the game. Rolle and company followed up with a similar outing against the Cowboys, a game in which he had an interception and shut out the Cowboys in the first half.
"Honestly, I think that's the best advice I could have ever gotten from any player," Rolle said about Grant. "I told him I felt like I was myself yesterday. I felt like I was myself last week against the Jets. I told him, I said, man, you know what, I owe you. And I do."
Coughlin noticed his physical presence and how he was able to read the quarterback's eyes. Rolle is getting back to what's he is at his core – a ball hawk.
"He's an emotional guy and he wears it on his sleeve," Coughlin said. "He gives you everything he's got. Watching him develop and play and play wherever we want him to play, whether it will be down, whether it will be back, whether it's back down again like it is right now. He's playing very well."
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