Tom Coughlin

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Keidel: Coughlin Keeps On Conquering

Ex-Giants Coach Returns To MetLife As Jags VP

Jason Keidel
September 07, 2018 - 1:03 pm
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We humans aren't a forgiving lot. When we end a relationship, we often hope the other person falls apart without us. But what's so wrong if both parties find other people or prosperity? Pride aside, isn't that the best result? 

Five minutes west of my laptop, the New York Football Giants booted the formerly beloved coach Tom Coughlin following a 6-10 season in 2015. After bagging two Super Bowl rings, the old-school, red-faced coach was inching toward 70 and wasn't winning anymore. So the Giants jammed the eject -- or reject -- button, leaving a football lifer without a gridiron home. 

While he still wanted to coach, no team was going to hire a recycled senior citizen with a drill instructor's soul. So he migrated south and went back to his old home -- Jacksonville, where he took a fledgling franchise to within four quarters of a Super Bowl twice in the 1990s. He could not coach the Jaguars, but he could run them. And despite his rep as an inflexible geriatric caught in a 1950s time warp, Coughlin has shown some remarkable, professional pliability. 

Remember, the Giants were sick of his act a month after he arrived, when he declared that injuries were more of the mind than the body, the Giants felt they were playing dial-up football in an increasingly Wi-Fi world. Then he named a group of player emissaries to bring team concerns to the hard-hearted coach. And it worked.  

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Coughlin changed and churned the Giants into two-time Super Bowl champs. Likewise, two quick years after their 5-11 season in 2015, the Jaguars won the AFC South and were one quarter from beating the Patriots in the AFC championship game. 

Coughlin's Jags now ring the bell on 2018 with what has to be an emotional return to MetLife Stadium. Maybe it's just another game to most Jaguars. Maybe more fans care about the eccentric Odell Beckham Jr versus the verbose Jalen Ramsey. Maybe you can't believe the Jaguars are favored by three points. 

But this game is about new beginnings. Pat Shurmur is now wearing the whistle in the Meadowlands. And, to borrow from Meadowlands patriarch Bill Parcells, there are some serious groceries in the fridge. With Beckham's return from a broken ankle and a new megabucks contract, the emergence of sophomore tight end Evan Engram, and the arrival of prized rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the G-Men are primed to turn that 2017 tanker around in quick order. 

If you need proof about the rampant parity the NFL markets with great frequency, just look at these two football teams. The Giants went 11-5 the year after they canned Coughlin, then went 3-13 the next season. The Jags went from a joke in Jacksonville to "Sacksonville." With some adroit drafting and acquisition of all-world lineman Calais Campbell, the Jags boast one of the best defenses in the sport. To lighten the load from beleaguered QB Blake Bortles, Coughlin drafted rugged running back Leonard Fournette, who has lived up to his LSU hype. 

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The Giants hope Barkley is their Fournette, a backfield monolith who can bang through the line over 300 times a year and add another 50 receptions out of the backfield. And while NFL owners tend to travel in like-minded packs, the Giants shoved their chips into their offense, hiring Shurmur, who turned Case Keenum into a playoff passer, coming within one game of hosting last year's Super Bowl in Minnesota. 

There were some really fine times under Coughlin, whose apple-red face at Lambeau Field became the avatar of a Super Bowl championship. He dressed like your grandpa, with the too-short polyester shorts, his lanyard bouncing off his chest during his throaty sermons. But under the inflexible persona was a great football mind. From Boston College to Jacksonville to New Jersey and now back in Jacksonville, Coughlin is a winner. 

If Shurmur gains a hearty fraction of Coughlin's traction, the G-Men would be rather happy to have him. And keep him. Big Blue fans surely won't root for the Jaguars on Sunday, when both clubs kick off the 2018 season right down Route 3. But maybe an approving nod is in order. You can pray the Giants roast the Jags and root for your current coach yet still silently thank your former coach, Tom Coughlin. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​