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It’s no exaggeration to say Tom Coughlin built the Jaguars from the ground up.
It’s also no exaggeration to say Coughlin’s last piece of unfinished business would be bringing a Super Bowl title to the town he helped put on the NFL map.
Fifteen years after being unceremoniously booted by the franchise he shaped Josh Rosen Jersey Elite , Coughlin is back in the front office, where he has helped guide the team in one of the league’s smallest markets to within two wins of the championship he came oh-so close to the first time around.
The 71-year-old executive VP of football operations started this franchise in 1995, working from an office in a trailer outside the stadium then known as the Gator Bowl. He was the head coach and the one voice who 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.
Denied not once, but twice, in the AFC title game where the Jaguars find themselves again this week, Coughlin chased the final pieces of the puzzle too hard. He wrecked the salary cap and left Jacksonville with the reputation of a man who had few equals on the sideline but lots of flaws in the front office.
Now, with two Super Bowl rings from New York as a coach in his back pocket, Coughlin is working his magic this time from that same front office. He has shown no interest in coaching and has sought zero attention this season, and especially this week, as the Jaguars get ready to play at New England in the AFC championship game Sunday – 21 years after Coughlin took them to the same place for the same stakes in only their second year of existence.
He may be deflecting the credit, but anyone who knows Coughlin knows what this means.
”He was the architect who built this thing, and he had his hands in every aspect of it,” said Tony Boselli, the Hall of Fame finalist who was the team’s first draft pick. ”Knowing him and as competitive as he, I think he would love (it). It would be a really special, and almost a finishing of what he started back in 1995.”
Of course, there are no regrets about the 12 years Coughlin spent with the Giants in between these jobs in Jacksonville. The league changed Tre'Quan Smith Jersey Saints , and Coughlin changed with it. He shed the reputation of the unbending taskmaster (though clocks are still set 5 minutes ahead), dealt less with off-the-field decisions and more with the X’s and O’s, and won two Super Bowls, both against the Patriots, both as an underdog.
Coughlin’s mastery of the Patriots and Bill Belichick, with whom he worked as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells back in the day, has been no small part of the conversation this week. But if Coughlin will be calling any shots on game day – or has been at any point this season – nobody is the wiser. Doug Marrone is the head coach, although Coughlin is always around.
”I don’t think I can lean on him anymore because I’m a big guy,” Marrone said, only half-joking.
To focus on Coughlin this week is to focus on how he transformed this roster and made sure the franchise, in owner Shad Khan’s words , no longer ”lacked football IQ.”’ The smarter look helped push a team that fired its coach and went 3-13 in 2016 to within a game of the Super Bowl for the first time since January 2000.
Coughlin was instrumental in signing the best free-agent class in franchise history. All-Pro defensive lineman Calais Campbell ranked second in the NFL with a team-record 14 + sacks, making him the most impactful free agent in 2017. Cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church helped make Jacksonville’s secondary the best in the league.
Top pick Leonard Fournette and second-rounder Cam Robinson, both college stars from NFL factories, reinforced the team’s new identity as a tough, physical group that expects to win every game.
All those moves allowed the Jaguars to win around quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been dreadful at times and efficient at best Authentic Danny Shelton Jersey , and a beneficiary of a defense that looks like a monster. The unit ranked second in points, yards, sacks and takeaways.
”One of Tom’s greatest skills is making people believe they can do more than they think is possible, work harder than they thought they could and achieve more than they ever imagined,” said Brian Sexton, the longtime radio voice of the team and one of the handful of people who have been with the team since its inception. ”I never met anybody who worked with him that didn’t want to do their best and have him see them doing their best. It’s a unique skill of his.”
In many ways, this season’s roster successes have mirrored those Coughlin produced during his first few years, when it seemed like he couldn’t miss.
Though it wasn’t a sexy pick, he declared Boselli would serve as the franchise’s cornerstone at left tackle. He went all-in with a little-known Packers backup quarterback named Mark Brunell and found receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith in the bargain bin.
The upset over the Broncos and John Elway in the 1996 playoffs is part of NFL lore, but coming up short that year – then again in 1999 after a 14-2 season – sowed the seeds of Coughlin’s undoing.
Hardy Nickerson, Bryce Paup and troubled receiver R.J. Soward were among the players for whom he overpaid or overreached. The Jaguars became a well-coached but cap-strapped and talent-deficient franchise that kept games close, but went 19-29 from 2000-02. (Exhibit A: They had a plus-12 turnover differential in Coughlin’s last season yet finished 6-10.)
There was only one person to blame for that roster: Coughlin. The owner who
HOUSTON — First things first: The Minnesota Timberwolves are not merely happy to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, despite the prevailing narrative regarding their presence.
The circumstances certainly allude to a measure of complacency on behalf of the Timberwolves, who claimed a winner-take-all showdown with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday to end the longest postseason drought in the league.
For their effort, which included surviving a lengthy span of the stretch run without All-Start guard Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves earned a matchup against the top-seeded and heavily favored Houston Rockets, with their Western Conference first-round series set to commence Sunday at Toyota Center.
Given the long odds Minkah Fitzpatrick Youth Jersey , and the fact that Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, is drawing Houston accomplishment enough?
“We expect nothing but greatness from ourselves,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We didn’t wake up this morning like, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to Houston.’ We woke up saying we’re going to go to Houston and get the job done. We put pressure on ourselves because we want to be so great, we want to be the best team possible that we can be. I think we’re going to do fine.
“At the end of the day we don’t need anyone to tell us their opinions of how the series is going to go. We have confidence and we talk to each other. That’s all we need is each other in this moment.”
The Timberwolves will have to circle the wagons against an opponent that blitzed them four times during the regular season. The Rockets claimed the first three meetings by 18 points each and led by 25 in a 129-120 road victory March 18. Houston, the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the league by volume, hit 69 of 159 3s in those four games for a robust 43.4 percent.
How Minnesota handles the challenge that comes with defending the Rockets might align with its offensive approach. By relying on Towns, who paced the team in points (1,743), rebounds (1,012), blocks (115) and 3-pointers (120), plus Butler in the post, Minnesota might unlock a pace that could prevent Houston from its usually lethal combo of layups and open 3s.
“We’ve got the capability to play slower; we’ve got KAT and Jimmy and those guys who can post the ball and put guys in isolation situations,” Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague said. “Against that team they switch so much they kind of want you to post the ball so they can come and trap, so we’ve got to push the ball and try to get some easy scores. And we’re going to have to make some shots.”
Matching the Rockets offensively might be as sound a strategy as anything the Timberwolves can muster defensively. Houston not only made more 3-pointers (1 Redskins Da'Ron Payne Jersey ,256) than any team in NBA history, the Rockets actually attempted more 3s (3,470) than shots from inside the arc (3,446).
Additionally, Rockets guards James Harden and Chris Paul ranked first and fourth, respectively, in isolation points per possession. And for added measure, center Clint Capela paced the league in field goal percentage (65.2), gorging on a healthy portion of lobs courtesy of the penetration Harden and Paul created by opponents scrambling to defend the 3-point arc.
The Timberwolves finished 23rd in defensive efficiency during the regular season, so any expectation that they might lock down the Rockets this series is foolhardy. The Rockets are well aware of their potency, and the potential to inflect damage by doing what they usually do.
“You go out there and compete, and go back to what you’ve been doing all year,” Harden said. “Staying together, having that positive mindset. Bad things are going to happen. Turnovers are going to happen, mistakes are going to happen but the sooner you can bounce back to that next play, the better off you’ll be.”