COMMENTARY | Breathe in and out, New York Giants fans who also support the New York Red Bulls. Give me a moment of your time to explain myself before you all lose your minds in the comment section down below.
There isn't a whole lot that we know about New York head coach Mike Petke halfway through his first season in charge that die-hard fans of the team didn't know this past winter. Petke has proved to be an emotional, sometimes overly emotional, on-the-pitch leader who isn't afraid to speak his mind to referees during games or to reporters after matches. Petke's devotion to the club has never been in question. If anything, he's more a loyal soldier now than he was as a player.
Petke seems to be tight with the players in the squad; well, minus one aged former star who is no longer at the club, that is. His method of presenting out-of-favor guys with a second chance gave new life to the career of the much-maligned Roy Miller. Petke's interactions with players on the field indicates that he is truly a "player's coach," reminiscent of the relationship Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas enjoyed with his roster during his first year at that club.
One topic that remains in question is Petke's effectiveness as a coach. The Red Bulls are, heading into the final weekend of July, no better off statistically speaking than they were one year ago under former boss Hans Backe. New York is currently on pace to finish right in the middle of the Eastern Conference table, which is exactly what it did in 2012. During games, Petke has often looked like, for lack of a better description, a rookie coach, one who struggled with reading the flows of matches and also with knowing when and how to utilize subs.
This is where the comparisons to New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan enter the mind. Ryan is a phenomenal motivator, to the point that it was only a couple of years ago that multiple players on the New York Giants told reporters that they preferred the atmosphere of the Jets' locker room over that allowed by Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Ryan has also been a press conference gem throughout his tenure with the Jets. Heck, he's even run with the bulls in Spain.
What Ryan hasn't done, however, is produce a winner. He was out-coached in the two biggest contests of his career, conference title games, and he has, to put it nicely, bungled the handling of his starting quarterbacks. There have even been suggestions that Ryan has, in the past year, lost the team, to the point that he could be searching for a new gig come this winter if the Jets don't at least flirt with a .500 record despite being at the beginning of a rebuilding phase.
Coughlin couldn't be more different. He drastically changed the way he treated his players in the summer of '07, realizing that doing so was the only way he was going to keep his job and have a shot at winning anything of merit that season. Coughlin also chooses to avoid the limelight like it is the plague. The results have been two Super Bowl titles since February 2008 and a career that, when all is said and done, will land him in the Hall of Fame.
That Petke is more Ryan than Coughlin as this stage of the game is undeniable. Numerous incidents, including telling a ref that he doesn't "give a(expletive)" about a card being handed out after New York buried a stoppage time equalizer, pleading with reporters to "just (expletive) deal with me" after he stormed out of a press conference following a home loss, and breaking the DVD from last weekend's lackluster draw at Toronto FC because he didn't want to relive what was an awful performance from the Red Bulls, all speak of a coach who lets his emotions and maybe even the frustrations that come with the job get the best of him.
It is, of course, more than a little unfair to compare Petke with Coughlin. Coughlin has been honing his craft since the early '70s, while Petke has been a head coach for roughly 15 minutes. The two sports may be very different, but the traits required to be a successful coach and leader are the same whether we are talking about football or .. .football.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- New York Red Bulls
- New York Giants
- Mike Petke
- Rex Ryan