Tom Coughlin staying mum on facing former team as Jaguars prepare to open season against Giants

Tom Coughlin wants no part of the spotlight this week. He has declined several interview requests as Jacksonville prepares to open the season against Coughlin's former team, the New York Giants.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tom Coughlin wants no part of the spotlight this week.

He has declined several interview requests as Jacksonville prepares to open the season against Coughlin’s former team, the New York Giants. Coughlin is entering his second year as Jacksonville’s executive vice president of football operations, working mostly behind the scenes.

Coughlin’s sure to get extra attention Sunday when he faces the Giants for the first time since his resignation as head coach in January 2016.

“I don’t spend any time thinking about that,” Coughlin said in April, the day after the NFL schedule was released. “We knew the teams we were going to play. We didn’t know the order, so to go to New York for the opening of the season, it’ll be an exciting atmosphere obviously. It’s Opening Day, so everybody will be excited, everybody will look forward to the opportunity to go to New York and play against a very good football team.”

More Jacksonville Jaguars news

The Jaguars enter the season with arguably the highest expectations in franchise history, and the 72-year-old Coughlin has played a significant role in the team’s rise from perennial loser to preseason favorite in the AFC South.

Coughlin’s presence and prowess reshaped every aspect of the team, far beyond setting the clocks five minutes ahead.

Discipline, accountability, legitimacy, Coughlin brought all of them with him when he returned to the team he helped build in 1995. His reputation was established in Jacksonville, where he was the franchise’s first head coach (1995-2002) and the One Voice who made every decision — from who threw the passes to who ran the salary cap to what color paint was on the walls.

His resume, though, was enhanced in New York thanks to two Super Bowl victories in 12 seasons.

As the league changed, so did Coughlin. He became less of an unbending taskmaster, focusing more on Xs and Os than off-the-field nuances. His fingerprints remain on the Giants roster even though he’s been gone 2 ½ years.

“Some franchises haven’t won a Super Bowl, and he helped this franchise win two,” first-year Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “He was here for 12 years. A lot of the people here worked with him his whole time here.”

Shurmur reached out to Coughlin “just to gain some perspective” shortly after getting the job in January.

“I admire him in a lot of ways for who he is as a man and what he’s done as a coach,” said Shurmur, who is planning to attend Coughlin’s charity gala later this month in New York City. “A lot of what I know about Tom I get a chance to hear about here frequently.”

Giants quarterback Eli Manning expects to chat with Coughlin on the field before kickoff.

“Obviously still have a great relationship with coach Coughlin and cherish the time that we had and appreciate those 12 years of him being my head coach,” Manning said. “But besides that, I look at this game and say it’s the Giants against the Jaguars, and I’m trying to get our offense prepared to go against that defense.”

Coughlin and Marrone have an old-school team constructed around one of the league’s best defenses , a unit that returns 12 of its top 14 players and expects to carry the Jags back to the playoffs.

It’s also part of the featured matchup Sunday: Manning, star receiver Odell Beckham and rookie running back Saquon Barkley against Jacksonville’s vaunted front, All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and two of the fastest linebackers in the league.

“It’s more of us living up to what we expect,” Jaguars Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith said. “Even when the show gets started, a lot of people’s narratives might change. But ours is not; ours is going to stay the same. … We expect to go out and be great and dominate games.”

It starts Sunday in New York, against the Giants and in conjunction with Coughlin’s under-the-radar return.

“Definitely we’d like to win this game just regardless,” Jaguars All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell said. “But it’d feel even better for TC, and we’ll try to get it done for him.”