There was no secret formula to how Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice President of operations Tom Coughlin wanted to move the organization forward. There was no grand speech, there was no PowerPoint presentation. All there was an idea that Coughlin, along with general manager David Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone could make this team a winner.
From the moment Tom Coughlin walked back into EverBank Field, things changed. Attitudes change. Work ethic changed. A feeling of commitment changed. It’s the same kind of principles that Coughlin instilled in this organization from the moment he was named head coach of the upstart Jaguars in 1993.
“We basically rolled our sleeves up; there was no great philosophical discussion,” Coughlin said Tuesday during the 2018 NFL Annual League Meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes, Orlando.
It’s the reason why the Jacksonville jaguars went from a 3–13 team to a 10–6 team and an AFC South division title and a spot in the AFC championship game this past season.
As the three figureheads continue to find ways to improve the roster and personnel, it’s conceivable the Jaguars will be better this coming season, but the record of the team won’t reflect that improvement.
Tom Coughlin spoke to the media on Tuesday at the annual meetings in Orlando. He said he, Caldwell, and around just rolled up their sleeves and went to work. There was an idea. There was a plan in place. In the focus was an on what the past had brought the Jaguars, rather what could happen in 2017 and beyond.
Coughlin helped the Jacksonville Jaguars to its first playoff berth since 2007. While he is the type of person who will deflect attention from himself and heap praise on the people around him, it was his presence that made a difference. Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke about his relationship with the former Jaguars and New York Giants head coach on many occasions while speaking to the media week after week last year.
It was Marrone who constantly asked his mentor about how to do things the right way and spoke about a mutual respect the two have for each other. Coughlin‘s relationship with Caldwell was the reason why players like Calais Campbell, Barry Church and AJ Bouye moved to Jacksonville last off-season. It’s one of the reasons why Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson had such solid rookie seasons.
As John Oehser of Jaguars.com wrote, “Coughlin, who coached the Jaguars to four playoff appearances during his tenure as head coach from 1994-2002, took over his current role last January. The Jaguars in the first season under Coughlin/Marrone/Caldwell won their first division title since 1999, when Coughlin coached the team to the AFC Central title and a spot in the AFC Championship Game.”
Everything falls back on the relationship between Coughlin, Caldwell and Marrone.
“I knew exactly what Doug was all about and Dave and I knew what we wanted to do in terms of trying to provide the kind of players that we were looking for in Jacksonville,” Coughlin said. “We wanted to run the football, we wanted to have an outstanding defensive team. We went out and did some things about that to create those opportunities.
“Yeah, we rolled our sleeves up, went to work and it was a team concept all the way.”
If rolling up your sleeves and getting to work is the standard by which NFL teams should find success, then Tom Coughlin and company should bottle that up and sell it like a fine wine. The Jaguars are built to win now, making changes to their roster, allowing players to walk in free agency and signing new players to improve weaker positions. With the NFL Draft less than a month away, the Jaguars could help themselves even more with a few marquee players, including a potential future franchise quarterback.
Coughlin’s pattern of observation changed in 2017. As a man who always roamed the sidelines, he watched from high above, taking everything from the press box. He alluded to the new game-day position when asked if he enjoyed his role with the Jaguars this past season.
“I enjoyed the winning,” he said, adding with a laugh: “I didn’t like the press box. The window in front of me got messed up a few times.”
He still found time to be involved in the day-to-day operation of a team he helped build from the bottom up as an expansion franchise.
“I basically was on the practice field for every practice,” Coughlin said. “I was in the Saturday night meetings. I did everything I normally do. I prepared just as if I was in that coaching spot. And I would do things … like Doug might ask me to look at something and prepare a tape for him to look at and I would do that, so I enjoyed all that.”
When asked on Tuesday what his expectations for the coming season would be an if they would change from last season, he gave a very “Tom Coughlin” answer, one that is expected from a coach and mentor who loves to win and is still as competitive as ever.
“Non-negotiable expectations from within; that’s all we look at,” he said. “Our expectations are very high and anybody that comes on board has to understand there’s a way to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish and it’s through team, it’s through individual improvement and it’s through a relentless drive in team success.”