After a year away from coaching, Tom Coughlin is back with the Jacksonville Jaguars and apparently still acting like a coach.
The Jaguars hired Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations in January. Coughlin worked with the league in 2016 after resigning as coach of the New York Giants at the end of the 2015 season.
With training camp now underway, Coughlin is trying to make his mark with a team that hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2010, but that may not necessarily be a good thing.
Coughlin told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that he is indeed a tangible presence at the Jags’ training camp practices and that he doesn’t plan to change that.
“I’m not going to adjust who I am or how I go about it,” Coughlin said. “I walk the practice fields and I say what I want to say, even to the head coach. ‘I don’t like this, I like this.’ And it’s a constant critique. And [head coach Doug Marrone] been very welcoming.”
According to Graziano, some players refer to “Coach Coughlin” alongside “Coach Marrone.”
Additionally, Coughlin is putting his fingerprints on the team culture. There’s a dress code for practices, players are expected to arrive five minutes early to every meeting — though he set the clocks back five minutes, so it’s really ten minutes early — and practices are long and padded. Coughlin said of the culture he’s trying to instill:
“The culture of understanding what it takes to win? For a team that has not won anything in five years? It’s not easy. It’s not an easy thing. So practices are 2½ hours long. They’re fully padded. They will be in the heat. There’s a lot of contact. You work your way into the understanding that nothing good has ever been accomplished without sacrifice — sacrifice, self-denial and discipline, the discipline that goes with it.”
It’s not so much that these are bad practices, but that it seems to put Marrone in an awkward position. According to Graziano, Marrone and Coughlin have been working together on almost all football decisions, and the two are like-minded in their football values. Coughlin also admitted to Graziano that he’s aware of how he’ll have to reel himself in when the real games begin and he won’t be on the sidelines.
Yet it’s unclear if Coughlin’s principles are the exact same as Marrone’s and how much Marrone is putting the fingerprints on his team. While executives are important in creating a culture within a franchise, equally as important is how coaches create an atmosphere and conduct guideline for players. An outside, higher voice can affect that.
We’ve seen in other sports how overbearing executives can negatively impact teams. Phil Jackson’s looming presence over New York Knicks practices reportedly caused a divide on the team and undermined head coaches. While the NBA, of course, is not the NFL, the effect can be the same — if and when the losing begins for the Jaguars, who will the players be listening to?
The Jaguars once again spent big in the offseason to improve the team, and they’re expected to build on a dismal 3-13 2016 season. Yet expectations are still fairly low, and if the Jags hit a skid this fall, how Coughlin’s influence on the team impacts Marrone and the players will be worth watching.
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