ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Tom Coughlin had one complaint about his first season back with the Jacksonville Jaguars: Watching games from the press box.
”The window in front of me got messed up a few times,” Coughlin said Tuesday at the NFL Meetings.
The 71-year-old former coach turned fiery executive might need to find a new seat, especially given the ultrahigh expectations that will follow Jacksonville into the season.
After making the AFC championship game in January – and leading New England by 10 points in the fourth quarter before losing 24-20 – the Jaguars will be a popular pick to win their division and make another run to the Super Bowl.
”Non-negotiable expectations from within,” Coughlin said. ”That’s how we look at it. 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. It’s through team, it’s through individual improvement and it’s through a relentless drive through team success.”
It was the same way during Coughlin’s first stint in Jacksonville. Coughlin essentially built the franchise from the ground up in 1995. He was the head coach and the one voice that made every decision – from who threw the passes to who ran the calculator for the salary cap to what color paint was on the walls.
Anyone who believes he’s a figurehead in his return would be mistaken.
He even had his hand in the Jaguars new uniforms.
The team spent part of last year designing new uniforms. The revamped ones will be unveiled April 19 at the team’s annual state of the franchise address. Most notably, the Jags are adding more teal to the jerseys and eliminating the two-tone helmets that had become as much a reason for ridicule in recent years as the team’s woeful record. The first version of the helmet was matte black.
Coughlin vetoed that color, instead opting for an old-school, shiny-black look.
”It was just a feeling of who we are, what we represent,” Coughlin said. ”That’s a very good look. It’s a solid look. As I said at one point in time, we have some guys that will be in the Hall of Fame and the connection will be very similar as we go forward. We just wanted a little bolder statement, and I think we got it.”
The Jaguars made a statement on the field in 2017. They won the AFC South for the first time in franchise history and earned a postseason berth for the first time in a decade.
The success coincided with Coughlin’s return, but it was far from a coincidence.
Team owner Shad Khan credited the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with bringing some much-needed leadership to a franchise that had won 17 of 80 games across the five seasons before his return.
”And with that comes a sense of values and a sense of expectations and ability to deliver results,” Khan said.
Even though Coughlin has final say over all football decisions, his role alongside coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell has evolved.
”I was basically on the practice field for every practice and I was in the Saturday night meetings,” Coughlin said. ”I did everything just like I normally would do (as the coach). I prepared just as if I was in that spot, the coaching spot, and I would do some things. Like Doug might ask me to look at something and prepare a tape for him to look at, and I would do that. I enjoy all of that.”
Winning surely helps, even in the press box.
Now, the Jaguars will try to build on their success amid external expectations that haven’t been part of the franchise in a decade and haven’t been an annual occurrence since Coughlin’s heyday.
”Expectations are the easy part,” Khan said. ”Delivering, that’s the hard part. I think what’s fun going forward is it’s expectations, but then a high degree of confidence that we’re going to deliver.”
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