For an NFL mainstay who had a reputation for being prompt, Tom Coughlin’s exodus from Jacksonville came early.
Coughlin was fired as Jaguars executive vice president of football operations, on Tuesday afternoon — just two games before the end of the season.
The team announced the news via statement.
“Within the past hour I informed Tom Coughlin that he was being relieved of his duties as executive vice president of football operations of the Jacksonville Jaguars, effective this evening,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said in a statement released shortly after 7 p.m. ET. “I determined earlier this fall that making this move at the conclusion of the 2019 season would be in everyone’s best interests but, in recent days, I reconsidered and decided to make this change immediately. I thank Tom for his efforts, not only over the past three years but for all he did from our very first season, 25 years ago, to put the Jacksonville Jaguars on the map. General manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone will each report to me on an interim basis. My expectations, and those of our fans, for our final two games and the 2020 season are high.”
The 73-year-old Coughlin, whose resume boasts 27 years of NFL coaching experience including as the first Jaguars head coach in 1995, was hired as the franchise EVP on Jan. 9, 2017 and promptly dismissed on Dec. 18, 2019, just shy of finishing three full seasons of piloting the franchise with old-school focus and ways.
“As head of football operations for the Jaguars for the last three years I was responsible for all things related to football,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I take great pride in our accomplishments, especially in 2017. I’d like to thank Shad Khan for the opportunity to come back to Jacksonville, all the players and staff for their efforts, and the great fans here for their support. I was the first coach of this franchise and I will always be supportive of the Jaguars.”
Plans were for Coughlin to retire at season’s end, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, but obviously those plans did not come to fruition.
According to Khan’s statement, the plan to part ways with Coughlin was a longtime coming that suddenly found its conclusion this week.
Coughlin’s firing also comes two days after the NFLPA informed players that an arbitrator had ruled in the union’s favor against the Jaguars over mandating injured players to rehab and see doctors at the team facility during the offseason. When Jaguars players did not attend these rehab sessions, they were fined. This week, running back Leonard Fournette and defensive end Dante Fowler (who is in his second season with the Rams) won grievances and had their fines rescinded.
Rapoport added the ruling and the fines had to do, in part, with Coughlin’s dismissal. But overall, it was Coughlin’s presence creating problems in the locker room that drove Khan to make the move earlier than expected with Coughlin, who notably expected his players to show up for meetings early.
In this past season — in which the Jaguars will miss the playoffs for the second straight year — Jacksonville also traded standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams for a cache of draft picks. Rapoport reported Ramsey’s disdain with the franchise was rooted in discontent for Coughlin.
It’s a tumultuous conclusion to Coughlin’s days in Jacksonville and perhaps in the NFL.
He became the franchise’s first-ever coach in 1995 and led them to an AFC Championship appearance in 1996, just their second season. His most famous and successful days were ahead as he piloted the Giants to a pair of Super Bowl titles.
Upon his return to Jacksonville, the Jaguars marched back to the AFC Championship, but since that appearance have gone 10-20.
This is most certainly a changing of how things will be done within the Jaguars organization going forward.
However, what isn’t clear and what will only be revealed presumably in the near future is whether Marrone and others are similarly dismissed. As Khan minced no words in his statement, while Coughlin’s season is done early, the Jaguars‘ isn’t and there are two games left with an owner’s high hopes attached to them and perhaps the direction of the franchise, as well.