By Steve Silverman
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It’s not just about the quarterbacks.

It’s about the quarterback-coach combination. Put together a sharp-throwing quarterback with a brilliant head coach and you have a winning combination.

The Jets have neither of these with bombastic Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez — along with Tim “High and Outside” Tebow waiting in the wings.

However, the Giants have one of the best combinations in Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin.

Here’s a look at the five best quarterback-coach duos in the NFL heading into the 2012 season:

Note: You won’t see Drew Brees on this list because head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for his role in the “Bountygate” scandal. Good coaches don’t get themselves kicked out of the NFL for a full season.

1) Tom Brady-Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – It’s not only the best quarterback-coach combination right now, but perhaps one of the three best of all-time. You would have to put these two in a category with Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, along with Dan Marino and Don Shula. Belichick is rarely impressed with his football players and looks at most as parts who will need to be replaced at a certain point in their careers. However, he recognized Brady’s special characteristics early on.

No, we’re not talking about Brady’s accuracy and arm strength. Any coach could have recognized those attributes. However, the fact that Brady is constantly studying film, finding opponents’ weaknesses and staying late in practice to build rhythm with his receivers has given the two a special bond.

Brady has made it a point to work hard and impress Belichick, and the single-minded Belichick appreciates that Brady has gone above and beyond so many times.

2) Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers – These two had to go through a lot at the start of their partnership. Specifically, the Packers had a quarterback named Brett Favre who was not interested in moving on to the next phase of his life very gracefully. However, Rodgers had shown enough in practice in 2007 that the Packers felt he was going to give them better play than the future Hall of Famer.

It’s one thing to come up with that assessment behind closed doors; it’s quite another to stick by it when the media is braying and Favre is making noise that he wants to remain in Green Bay. Nevertheless, McCarthy stuck by his guns and was not afraid of challenging Favre.

It turned out to be a brilliant and courageous decision, and both men are clearly connected. They have one Super Bowl title and are probably the biggest obstacle that the Giants have to face if they want to earn back-to-back championships.

3) Eli Manning-Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – The combination of Manning and Coughlin may not have been made in heaven, but the two have come to trust and rely on each other. While the Giants let offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride pick out the specifics of the offense, it is under the design of Coughlin.

Even when he was a raging martinet in his earlier years with the Giants (and before that with Jacksonville), Coughlin was known as one of the sharpest game planners in the NFL. Manning may not be the student of the game that his brother Peyton is, but his knowledge is more than enough and his technique remains truest when the biggest games are on the line.

Manning knows that Coughlin will put him in a position to win, and Manning delivers in the clutch.

4) Ben Roethlisberger-Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers – Roethlisberger is not the finely-tuned quarterback who will deliver the ball with razor-sharp accuracy on a game-in, game-out basis. Tomlin is a forward thinker who only wants to put his players in a position to succeed.

This combination does not seem ideal, but Tomlin has gotten the previously undisciplined player to clean up his act and play like a professional. Tomlin knows the ins and outs of offensive football, but his strength is getting all his players -– including his quarterback -– to leave it all on the field every game.

5) Philip Rivers-Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers —  While this duo has not had a lot of postseason success, it is still one that could possibly bring the first Super Bowl title to San Diego. Rivers has a somewhat flawed delivery, but he gets the ball accurately to his receivers. Turner is one of the most offensive-minded of the NFL’s head coaches, and he can pick out areas to exploit in the opponent’s defense as well or better than nearly every coach in the league.

If Turner could command his team a little better and get more of an emotional commitment from his players, the River-Turner combination could finally get the glory.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin. Which is the best combination? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…


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