PHOENIX - Tom Coughlin sat at a table surrounded by a handful of reporters at yesterday morning's NFC coaches breakfast. He struggled to pick up his potatoes with a soup spoon, joked about his frustrations trying to get driving directions from his iPhone, and chatted casually about the state of basketball at his alma mater, Syracuse.
At the table next to him, reporters and cameras lined up three deep, waiting to see what Chip Kelly, coach of the Eagles, had to say about, well, anything and everything.
The contrast was clear. Kelly is exciting, new, unpredictable. Coughlin?
"I'm a traditionalist," the 68-year-old said.
But, he was quick to point out, tradition has its place.
"The team that just won the Super Bowl has done it the way things were done in the NFL for years," Coughlin said. "I don't have any problem with what's going on, the way in which some of these people are preparing. I don't have any problem with that at all. But I certainly don't think that necessarily says that it hasn't been done right for a lot of years."
So while other teams shuffle their rosters like machines do cards at casinos and they try to outsmart the game with technology and science and gimmickry, Coughlin thinks the old ways of doing it -- having a pocket passer, being able to run the ball and being able to stop the run -- are still in play.
"I understand what you have, but I still believe in balance and I think the physical nature and aspect of the game is still very prevalent," he said. "I'm reluctant to leave that aspect."
That's not to say Coughlin is averse to change. He brought in Ben McAdoo as his offensive coordinator a year ago to revamp his offense after a lifetime of running the same system.
"You constantly learn, you are constantly aware, you constantly try to decide what is best for your team on a daily basis and you make your decisions based on that," Coughlin said. "I don't have a problem with change, as you well know. I'm not one of those that says 'This is the way we did it yesterday, we're not going to change.' Whatever is in the best interest of our team, and I'm convinced of it, then I will openly embrace it."
Right now, the epicenter of change in the NFL is at the next table. Coughlin knows it. He sees it. He saw the buzz around it yesterday morning.
But he also saw the Patriots win the most recent Super Bowl in a way that he recognized.
"All the new ideas that you have, Philadelphia, San Francisco, what the Packers did this year was a little bit different," Coughlin said. "I'm not sure what has to be validated and what doesn't other than the fact that winning is the bottom line. How ever you do it."
The new ways of doing things are here. But they haven't won any trophies yet.
"You're right," said the only man in the room who has won two of them. There just weren't a lot of people around him to hear it.
Coughlin said he believes Eli Manning will get an extension from the Giants and finish his career with the team. "Eli knows he's our guy," he said, adding that negotiations with the Giants often move more slowly than with other teams . . . Coughlin said he thinks Victor Cruz will make a full recovery from a torn patellar tendon and could even be better than he was before. The only question in his mind is when. He's hopeful to have Cruz back for training camp and ready for Week 1 . . . Coughlin is asked every year about future plans. "People say, 'You'll know,' " Coughlin said of judging when it will be the right time to retire. "I know the other way right now."