Sweatman has Giant STs playing at high level.

When his glasses are perched near the tip of his nose, Giants special teams coach Mike Sweatman looks professorial. And in a way you could say he is.For the last 22 years Sweatman has preached about the fundamentals of his craft, one of the most intricate courses an NFL player can take.

And he takes his work very seriously, as you would expect of an ex-Marine who served four years of active duty as an infantry officer. And after his duty was done he joined the Marines Corps Reserve and completed 26 years of service before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Sweatman's three sons, Tom, Chris and Dan, all served as officers in the military.

"Mike's very meticulous and organized because of his military background," Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope said. "He does things in an orderly fashion and he's succeeded wherever he's gone. He's very respected in this league, the consummate special teams coach."

The Giants have long suffered on special teams, a problem forever caught on video when Trey Junkin's bad snap and holder Matt Allen's snap reaction cost them an NFC Wild Card Game in San Francisco in 2002.

After the Giants hired him to coach, Tom Coughlin instinctively turned to Sweatman, who'd spent the previous three years in Chicago after spending 16 working for Bill Parcells with the Giants, Patriots and Jets. Coughlin and Sweatman were assistants on Parcells' staffs from 1988-90 and won a Super Bowl (XXV) together.

"Mike's extremely detailed," Coughlin said. "He uses the wealth of experience. He's meticulous in the utilization of personnel. He has a fundamental belief in certain aspects of the game, which are very sound and repeated over and over and over again [to his players]. He brings enthusiasm to the meeting room. He and Mike Priefer [assistant special teams coach] have created an atmosphere of real intense interest in special teams. The players now look forward to each week's challenge. His secret is consistency and soundness, an approach which talks about ball security, first and foremost, and then a physical presence."

When Sweatman gathers his players together for their first meeting each year he often relies on time-tested adages to get their attention

"Every year is a new year, but I do repeat myself," Sweatman said. "I wouldn't be able to say what that was because it wouldn't be fair to the people in those meetings."

But most of it has to do with believing in the importance of the work they do and having the energy and enthusiasm to carry it out.

"It's the enthusiasm of the rookies that often lifts up the special teams," Sweatman said. "It's their chance to get on the field and participate in a play that meaningful to the outcome of the game. Do I appreciate their youth? Yes I do."

Rookie halfback Brandon Jacobs had to basically learn the art of special teams play from the ground floor and has been impressed with Sweatman's style.

"He's one of those go-get-it types of coaches, a great personality, always making jokes, a real funny coach," Jacobs said. "But at the same time he wants you to lay it all on the line to get six points. But he led me early on to believe that he didn't like rookies. As I came to understand, he was just being hard on us and wants to groom us for this league as fast as he can."

"One of things about special teams, and this is much more prevalent than when I started, is you are seeing the continual ascent of young players onto the roster," Sweatman said. "Even though it's the same way every year, if always different because the players are new and eager to go out and play."

Pope, who has worked with Sweatman for 12 seasons with the Giants and Patriots, believes his friend's success is based in his experience and the support he gets from the top.

"I think being a good special teams coach comes naturally through knowledge gained through experience," Pope said. "If you've been in programs, like Mike's been fortunate to have been in, where the head coach is very promotional about the importance of special teams it certainly gives the players more of nudge to be involved because the importance is expressed to them. That isn't always the way it is around the league."

Under Sweatman, the Giants kickoff return jumped from 29th to first in 2004, the first time since 1953 they led the league. Their average following a kickoff (31.8) was also the best. Sweatman's Bears also led the league in that category in 2003.

The Giants also had a kickoff return [Willie Ponder] and punt return [Chad Morton] for a touchdown in the same game against the Cardinals on Sept. 11, and kicker Jay Feely had made all eight of his field goals.

"You do more than hope [special teams] can provide momentum," Sweatman said. "You pray a little bit. There's always the potential for a big play. Sometimes they show up and sometimes they don't show up for a while."

As he waits for those plays to evolve, Sweatman sometimes needs to remind veterans tabbed for special teams by Coughlin that their attention is required.

"Romeo Crennel [the former Giant assistant who now coaches the Browns] had a great line about that: See me now or see me later," Sweatman said. "You see them when they come in [as rookies] and often times at the end they'll be involved very actively. But we distribute plays so that we're not wearing anyone down. The players on special teams may not play as many offense and defense plays, although some will be required.

"But I've never had to make that decision of who plays specials [in addition to offense and defense] but it's an interesting concept. What would I do if I were the coach? Well, now you are getting into hypotheticals.

"There is no contest. The head coach is always right. The play of the players is what lobbies for their playing time and role on the team. We're trying to win and will do what we need to do to get that done."

Meanwhile, Coughlin appreciates the motor that has enabled Sweatman to work at high efficiency for so many years.

"I think [assistants] have to bring enthusiasm and energy to the job, no matter what you coach and you have to make it as interesting for the player as you possibly can," Coughlin said. "Your credibility is established by helping the player be as good as he can be. Coaches, just like everybody else, come in all shapes and sizes and descriptions. It's what you bring to the table in terms of your knowledge and your skills and preparation, your communication skills, your appeal, your ability to point out to any number of people the good and the bad, and do it in such a way that it doesn't take away from their aggressiveness.

"In the case of Mike Sweatman (and Mike Priefer) their backgrounds are disciplined. Their stamina and desire to teach and coach and direct people is something that you can count on."

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