GLENDALE, Ariz. - Pepper Johnson laughed at the thought.
New England's jovial defensive line coach was asked about his playing days as a Giants linebacker, when New York assistant coaches Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin went at each other during practice.
"There was no battle," Johnson said with a smile. "Coughlin's guys couldn't do a thing against us."
For three years beginning in 1988, Coughlin's group of wide receivers tried to shake free against Belichick's veteran defense, while Coach Bill Parcells viewed the spirited practice sessions.
A generation has passed, and now Coughlin and Belichick will stand on opposite sidelines in Sunday's Super Bowl, still trying to upstage the other.
"I remember Tom being in a world all to himself," Johnson said. "Say what you will about him, but Tom elevated those wide receivers in New York. He got production from a group that always seemed to be in question."
After all these years, Johnson is still working for Belichick, whose 18-0 Patriots have one last obstacle on the path to NFL immortality.
"Bill's the same guy, the same tyrant," Johnson said. "He wants the most out of his players and coaches, and we all understand that because he's the guy in charge. Any way you slice it, it's Bill Belichick and the Patriots."