Back before he won the Super Bowls and was known more for his rules than his rings, Tom Coughlin had one directive that sounded so extreme, it was borderline comical: If you weren't five minutes early for a team meeting, you were late.
Among those to balk, and pay the price, was Hall of Fame defensive lineman Michael Strahan. The coach and his star eventually worked out their differences, but even at his Hall of Fame induction, Strahan couldn't resist poking a bit of fun at his old coach: ''Just tell me 7:55; don't tell me it starts at 8,'' he said. ''That one I still don't get. I ain't going to lie to you. But you made me a better man, Coach Coughlin.''
This week, the issue came up again in a much less amicable light. The Texans parted ways with their sometimes starting quarterback, Ryan Mallett, three days after Mallett missed the team's charter flight to Miami for last weekend's game against the Dolphins.
''We don't have a lot of rules, but one rule that we do have is we want guys to be on time,'' Texans coach Bill O'Brien said in explaining Mallett's release. ''Now we're not talking about starting a meeting 15 minutes early ... if the meeting is supposed to start at 8, then be there at 8, be there at 7:59 ready to go. If it's something that happens time and time again, then the message isn't getting through, then we have to make decisions in that regard, too.''
There are two lines of thinking when it comes to tardiness among NFL players:
- Some believe a man making millions to play football shouldn't have any problems being on time for meetings and should be held accountable if he does.
- Others say grown men shouldn't be treated like kids and, hey, everyone's a few minutes late from time to time.
Some other notable truancies, and the way the coaches handled them:
BACK TO THE ISLAND: Last year, Darrelle Revis overslept and ran late for a team meeting, so Patriots coach Bill Belichick sent him home, per team policy. Belichick had previously sent Randy Moss and others home for being late for meetings. The coach, with his four Super Bowl rings, has a reputation for not making exceptions when it comes to team rules, regardless of how big a star the transgressor may be.
NOT SO INVINCEABLE: In 2006, Titans quarterback Vince Young forgot his ID, then refused to bull his way through a funeral procession to beat traffic and make the team flight to Philadelphia. So, he was forced to find his own way there. Young made it to town and beat the curfew but was fined, nonetheless. The coach at the time, Jeff Fisher, said: ''There's a reason we recommend they get there 45 minutes before departure time.''
GENO NO-SHOW: There were two well-publicized tardiness issues on the Jets last year. Quarterback Geno Smith missed a meeting in San Diego because he was unsure of what time zone he was in. And safety Calvin Pryor was late for a meeting. Smith didn't miss any playing time for his transgression. Pryor did. It was this sort of inconsistency that made Rex Ryan an easy target for Jets players after he became the ex-coach.
BEFORE THE SHOUTING: Last week, NFL Network reported that Greg Hardy was late for Thursday's practice with the Cowboys and didn't let anyone know where he was. He was listed as not participating in practice because of an illness. But he played Sunday, and whatever angst his lateness may have caused was overshadowed when Hardy yelled at special teams players and coaches along with receiver Dez Bryant on the sideline during a loss to the Giants.
NOBODY'S PERFECT: And finally, guess who was late for one of the biggest job interviews of his life. Yes, Tom Coughlin. In an interview with the YES Network a few years ago, he told about being late for an interview with Syracuse coach Frank Maloney, when Coughlin was in his late 20s and looking to break into big-time-college coaching. Coughlin had planned his day so he'd be 10 or 15 minutes early for the interview, but as he started out the door, he realized he'd lost his car keys. He called Maloney and told him, and Maloney told Coughlin to take another hour and call back if he still couldn't find the keys. Coughlin found the keys. Got to the meeting, and got the job. ''But for that one moment in time, I thought, well, I've just blown my opportunity here,'' Coughlin said.