By Steve Silverman
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Despite being put out to pasture by the Giants at the conclusion of the disastrous 2015 season, Tom Coughlin did not go quietly into retirement.
Even though his decision-making at the end of some games cost Big Blue victories that season, the last thing Coughlin wanted to do was give up on his coaching career. His name was floated for several jobs during that offseason, but he wasn’t hired.
Coughlin then decided to change the job description he was looking for, and Jacksonville came calling. The Jaguars looked at the first head coach in team history as the executive who could help turn the franchise around as its executive vice president of football operations.
Coughlin is the man who will set the tone for the organization and impart his wisdom on head coach Doug Marrone and the remainder of the staff.
This is not going to be an easy job for Coughlin, but a closer look at the Jaguars reveals some degree of talent. That said, Coughlin’s disciplined approach may be just what Jacksonville needs.
The Jags were 3-13 a year ago, and that came on the heels of predictions that they were going to be one of the league’s surprise teams, one good enough to challenge for the AFC South title.
But when his team regressed after winning six games the season before, owner Shad Khan decided to turn the team’s key decisions over to someone who knows how to win.
This is a huge gamble for Khan, because, as Giants players and fans know, there is nothing subtle about Coughlin’s approach.
The Jaguars have quickly found out that an 8 a.m. meeting means that everyone has to be there at least five minutes early. If players want to relax, they have to do it on their own time. The ping pong table in the locker room? You’re kidding, right?
Other creature comforts have been assessed as well, and the only ones that remain are the ones that Coughlin feels will help the Jags win games during the 2017 season.
Key decisions were made to the team’s personnel, like the signing of defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, and safety Barry Church. They’ll move into starting roles on a defense that that ranked 25th in points allowed (25 per game) and dead last in interceptions (seven) a year ago.
Coughlin also got rid of a number of players that he did not like, including tight end Julius Thomas, defensive linemen in Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller and Jared Odrick, as well as former first-round offensive tackle Luke Joeckel.
One area where the Jaguars did not make a change was at quarterback. Blake Bortles was anything but a steady performer last year, even though he threw for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Coughlin and Bortles seems like a shaky marriage, but the old ball coach didn’t bring in anyone to challenge his starting signal-caller, either. If seems like Coughlin is going to use 2017 as the litmus test on Bortles.
The running game has always been vitally important in Coughlin’s scheme. So it’s logical that he made tailback Leonard Fournette of LSU his first draft pick, taking him fourth overall. A powerful ground attack will set the tone and help make the Jaguars a tougher team to play against. Coughlin is depending on Fournette to become the team’s workhorse back.
That’s really the key to everything. Coughlin saw the Jags’ horrible 2016 season as the fitting conclusion to a lack of toughness. If Fournette can assert himself that will only help Bortles. He won’t have to do everything himself.
A solid running game will also send a powerful psychological message to a defense that must find a way to create more turnovers and do a better job on third downs, an area where the team ranked 29th last season.
The new boss has a plan for his first year, and it will be up to Marrone to carry it out and make progress. A two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, Coughlin still believes he knows how to create a team that can sustain winning, and now he’ll be doing it from the executive suite.
Coughlin has upgraded two very important aspects of any team, and he will address the most important part next offseason, if needed.
As Coughlin has shown forever, he doesn’t sit idly by and hope for the best. Now it’s up to his retooled Jaguars to become one of the more interesting teams in the league.
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