Remembering Coughlin's first stint in Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars made a couple of major moves on Monday, setting the wheels in motion as the franchise looks to make a leap forward in 2017. They’re reportedly hiring Doug Marrone as the full-time head coach, but maybe more importantly, they’re bringing Tom Coughlin back for a second stint with the team. This time, he’ll be the Executive VP of Football Operations – not the head coach as he was for eight years previously.
From 1995-2002, he held the position as the franchise’s first head coach ever. He led them to four playoff appearances in eight years, making for several great moments in Jacksonville. With him returning to the franchise where he got his start, we ranked his top-five moments with the Jaguars.
Reaching two AFC title games
The Jaguars have reached the postseason exactly six times in their franchise’s history, four of which came with Coughlin as the head coach. He won at least one playoff game in three of those four years including two AFC title game appearances. In 1996, Jacksonville’s second season ever, the Jaguars beat the Bills – Jim Kelly’s last game – and Broncos in the postseason before falling to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
After they beat the Broncos, an estimated 40,000 fans were waiting at the stadium upon their arrival, showing remarkable support for the team.
Three years later, Coughlin got them back to the Conference Championship. This time, they were the No. 1 seed, so it only took one win over the Dolphins to get to that point. They beat Miami in what was Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson’s last NFL game, dominating them in every facet. Their 62 points and 55-point margin of victory are the second-most in NFL history. The Jaguars became the first expansion team to make the postseason in four of its first five years.
Trading for Mark Brunell
Coughlin was the Jaguars’ first coach in franchise history, so not much was expected right out of the gate. However, in 1995, the team traded for Mark Brunell, giving them some stability at quarterback going forward. He got off to a good start with 15 touchdowns and seven picks in his first season (10 starts) before making the Pro Bowl in three of the next four seasons.
“We were able to maintain our four picks in the first two rounds, plus get another veteran quarterback who brings a lot to the table," Coughlin said at the time.
Coughlin helped turn Brunell into a star for the Jaguars and one of the best quarterbacks the franchise has ever seen.
Getty ImagesAl Messerschmidt
Signing Jimmy Smith after a tryout in 1995
Brunell wasn’t the only great addition Coughlin had in Jacksonville. Jimmy Smith was signed by the Jaguars after a tryout in 1995, making the roster due to Coughlin’s belief that he could be a premier receiver. Smith’s mother also helped his cause, sending Coughlin press clippings of her son. In 1996, he immediately became one of the most prolific receivers in the league.
From 1995-2002, Coughlin’s last season, Smith caught an average of 83 passes for 1,161 yards and six touchdowns per season. He was a five-time Pro Bowler who finished his career with 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. Smith remains the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.
The Jaguars’ first win as an NFL franchise
The Jaguars had low expectations as an expansion team. They figured to take a while to get going, and they did. They lost their first four games by a combined score of 85-44, jumping out to a slow start. However, in Week 5, they ended their losing skid. Coughlin led the Jaguars to the franchise’s first-ever victory, beating the Houston Oilers 17-16 at home. Desmond Howard caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell in the fourth quarter to give them a one-point win.
"It's the first win in our history, it's huge," Coughlin said. "It's a great feeling. There is a lot of emotion flowing out of this locker room at this moment. It's one win, and we don't have to worry about that anymore."
Winning five games in a row to make the 1996 playoffs
The Jaguars were sitting at 4-7 in Week 12 of the 1996 season. They looked to be out of the playoff hunt having lost three of their last four. However, Coughlin turned his team around and led them to five straight wins to close out the year. The Jaguars snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record before upsetting both the Bills and Broncos, 30-27 in the postseason.
It all started with an overtime win against the Ravens in Week 13, too. Willie Jackson caught a 7-yard touchdown from Mark Brunell in the fourth quarter to bring the Jaguars within two. Brunell tied it with a run on the two-point conversion before Mike Hollis drilled a 34-yard field goal to win it in OT.