It wasn’t too long ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly knocked off the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. Since then, they’ve been less than successful. The team recently fired its front office leader, Tom Coughlin.
Coughlin’s tenure was marked by one major success (the aforementioned AFC title game appearance) and a lot more failures and controversy. Let’s take a look at where things went wrong for Coughlin in Jacksonville.
Tom Coughlin’s first run in Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Coughlin as their first coach in franchise history. Despite a 4-12 record that season, he led the team to a respectable 9-7 in 1996 along with an appearance in the AFC championship game. (They lost to the New England Patriots.)
In eight seasons in Jacksonville, Coughlin went 68-60. Between 1997-99, Coughlin’s teams were very good, fielding records of 11-5, 11-5, and 14-2. After a trio of losing seasons from 2000-02, the Jags fired him.
Coughlin spent the next 12 seasons coaching in New York, where he fared a lot better. It was in New York where Coughlin would first gain notoriety for expecting players to be early to meetings. This trend continued during his time in a front-office role in Jacksonville.
Coughlin’s second run in Jacksonville
In 2017, owner Shad Khan tapped Coughlin to take control of the Jags. Along with hiring coach Doug Marrone, he named Coughlin the team’s executive vice president of football operations. The coach was fresh off a stint leading the New York Giants.
With two Super Bowl championships added to Coughlin’s resume since his last run in Jacksonville, it seemed like a great fit. Khan said in a statement:
“I have confidence that one day soon we’ll look back on [Monday’s] news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season,” Khan said in a statement.
“The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join [GM[ Dave [Caldwell] and [coach] Doug [Marrone], there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today.”
It didn’t work out so well, however. After a stellar 2017 season where Coughlin’s team (yet again) lost to the Patriots in the AFC championship game, they couldn’t find a long-term solution at quarterback.
Back to back last-place finishes in 2018 and 2019 cemented Coughlin’s fate; the Jaguars fired him prior to the end of the 2019 season.
How Tom Coughlin may have ruined the Jaguars
Coughlin’s old-school style can rub people the wrong way. His insistence on players arriving early for meetings was almost fanatical. After he was fired, the Jaguars had to reset all the clocks at the team facility. Apparently Coughlin had moved all clocks forward five minutes.
The biggest issue with how Coughlin ran the team, however, is the number of fines he handed out. According to a report from the NFL Players Association, 25% of all player grievances from the last two seasons were against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville attempted to circumvent rules set by the CBA by holding mandatory offseason rehabilitation sessions at the team facility. They also levied other bogus fines — like the $700,000 in fines against Dante Fowler — that were later overturned.
After reviewing the issues with the Jaguars organization, the NFLPA report finished with its most damning statement: “You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”
Ultimately, this is what did Coughlin in. His “my way or the highway” approach no longer works in today’s NFL. Unfortunately for him, it led to two dark periods in Jaguars history.