Fennelly: Tom Coughlin, a Football Lifer, Back in Business With Jaguars Job

When Tom Coughlin was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team he basically founded, after the 2002 season, he was seen several weeks later at NFL Combine, stop watch in hand and taking notes as if he was still fully employed by an NFL organization.

Someone asked him why he was there since he currently had no team.

“I will soon,” said Coughlin.

And he was right. The Giants hired him the next year, a job he would keep for twelve seasons. When the Giants parted ways with Coughlin last January, there he was again the next month at the Combine in Indianapolis. He just could not stay away from the business of football.

He was interviewed by several teams for their vacant head coaching last year but ended up taking a job with the league office instead. That kept him involved in the NFL on a daily basis, but it wasn’t quite the role befitting of this football lifer.

We all know his legacy of winning and the class and professionalism he brings along with him. That is why it was no surprise the floundering Jacksonville Jaguars named Coughlin as their Executive Vice President of Football Operations this week. Although the Jaguars have gone through a change of ownership since Coughlin’s departure, they are adept enough to realize that Coughlin, who still has strong ties to the community, is the man to lead the franchise back to respectability.

“Tom had to return to Jacksonville,” said owner Shad Khan, who said he simply wanted Coughlin back and even asked him which role int he organization he wanted.

“I just wanted to listen,” said Khan. “What happened [with him] over the years and why success has eluded us. What do we need to do? For me, he is an iconic Jaguar ambassador and [to be] able to sit down for a day with him, it gave me a lot of depth and understanding of what we need to do.”

Coughlin said the EVP of Football Operations was the job that he wanted. He will retain GM Dave Caldwell, who has drafted a ton of talent the past few years thanks to some favorable draft positions, and head coach Doug Marrone, who like Coughlin is a Syracuse alum.

At his press conference on Thursday, Coughlin was still Coughlin. In deference to him, the event, scheduled for 10 AM, actually began at 9:55. He was asked if he foresaw any problems.

“Will I anticipate any problems?” Coughlin said. “No, because I intend to put my heart and soul into being a great support for Dave and for Doug. So, I’ll be living in their shoes, so to speak, but I embrace this opportunity.”

The question of whether the embattled Blake Bortles would remain the team’s quarterback. Coughlin said publicly that he was, but no one was buying it. Bortles is the type of play that Coughlin usually sends packing – undisciplined and error-prone.

Someone asked Marrone what the focus of the organization would be going forward. He was immediately cut off by Coughlin, who gave his usual animated response to a dubious question.

“What’s the focus?” Coughlin shot back. “What else is there? What the hell would you be doing this for if it wasn’t to win. We’re trying to win today…who’s going to get the better lunch. Let’s not make any misunderstandings about why where here. This is all nice and dandy but winning is what this thing is all about.”

Typical Coughlin. As a reporter whose been around the man for many years, I’ve seen that look and tone dozens of times. The Jacksonville media is in for a treat with him but he will get results there. He always does.

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