Jags Fire Tom Coughlin

Old school approach was not working.

Jim Rome
December 19, 2019 - 9:22 am
Tom Coughlin

USA Today

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Jacksonville announced that Tom Coughlin is out as Executive VP of Football Operations. And despite what that first season back in Duval was like, and how close they came to the Super Bowl, it was a move they absolutely had to make. A no-brainer. It wasn’t a matter of if, but a question when; there was no way ownership would bring him back: the only issue if they would wait until the season ended to do it, or do it right now. And we have our answer. Hit the bricks, Pops.  

Now, I’m not here to pile on. Just the opposite. In fact, this is a tough one, because you know how I feel about Duuuuvalllll. And how I feel about a lot of the guys in that locker room. 

But Tom Coughlin had to go. And this isn’t even about going 5-11 last year. Or 5-9 this year. Or the Nick Foles Experiment which has been a disaster. Nor is it about actually believing in Blake Bortles, then extending him, and then cutting him. And it’s not about drafting Leonard Fournette over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Or Taven Bryan instead of Lamar Jackson.

Although honestly, all of those things are reasons to move on. 

But this wasn’t about any of that, per se. What it’s about is a letter from the NFLPA to players earlier this week. And it is the kind of letter you never see.

Bear with me for a moment while I lay this out, because while I know there are few things more boring than talking about labor negotiations and the nuances of the CBA, there is going to be a hammer at the end of this. 

The letter from the NFLPA to all players outlined how the Jags under Coughlin started to require players to have all offseason rehab done at the team facility. When players did not do that, they were fined.

Dante Fowler was fined 25 times for “mandatory” rehab sessions and those fines totaled $700,000. I’m not an expert in the CBA or an NFL arbiter, but that seems a little excessive. And actually, according to Fowler, an arbiter thought that was a lot excessive, because he tweeted that he got all the money back on appeal.  

And if you think that’s a lot of fines for rehab, check the one fine that Leonard Fournette received: $99,000.

What do you have to do to get fined $99,000 for a single incident? He sat on the team bench last year during Week 17 when he was inactive with an ankle injury.

Huh? For sitting on a bench? When he had an ankle injury? What kind of a Junction Boys type thing is this? Are you running a football team or a SEAL unit?

I get that you want to instill discipline and toughness, but exactly what kind of behavior were you trying to correct by fining a guy nearly 100 grand for sitting on the bench. And then losing to the player on appeal. 

To hear it described this way, it’s like Coughlin was pitching some late night infomercial: Fine Your Way to Greatness. Fine from the front! If your team members don’t do exactly as you say, fine their ass! And keep it doing until you get the response you want. The bench!?!? The bench?!  Is for active players. Hit the bricks, pal, and leave $100 grr on my desk while you’re at it!!  You’re five minutes early, which makes you an hour late on Coughlin: that’ll be a half a mill!!!  Oh! You think that’s unfair. Really, now it’s 750!! Anything else you want a share? That’s what I thought! 

I don’t know, Coughlin is a solid football man: did a great job with the Jags first time around and won a couple of rings with the Giants. But the game is changing and he obviously hasn’t. He seems to think you can fine your way to greatness. But you can’t. But you can drive great players away. 

The Jags took some heat when Tom Coughlin criticized Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith for not showing up to voluntary OTA’s in the spring. The key word there is voluntary. That’s how it is in the CBA. Obviously, in Coughlin’s world nothing is voluntary: that word doesn’t exist. So now he’s on the wrong side of the guys who matter most. 

Telvin Smith decided not to show up at all and took the year off. Jalen Ramsey made it clear he didn’t want to be there anymore. Two Pro Bowlers gone from that defense this year. 

And after the news about Coughlin came down, Ramsey took to twitter and kept it simple: the eyes emoji and the zippered mouth emoji. 

Ramsey wasn’t talking, but AJ Bouye was. He said that Jags players had become the butt of jokes because other players couldn’t believe they would actually get fined for the things they were getting fined for.  

From the sound of it, the Jags really weren’t do much other than fining guys for anything and everything, and then spending a ton of time trying to justify them.

According to the NFLPA, more than 25% of the grievances filed by players came against the Jags. 

And here comes the hammer in the letter from the NFLPA to the players: "you as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club."

BOOM! As far as a players association communicating with its players, that is the absolute definition of napalm. 

If you have a chance to choose a club, don’t choose this one. If you were thinking about signing with this team, think again. That is the definition of toxic. 

If there was an NFL Yelp, the NFLPA just dropped a 1 star review on the Jags. The food is terrible, the service is worse, and a rat was floating in my soup. 

When something like that comes down, and that you have no choice but to make a move in the front office. Good luck going into the offseason and trying to attract talent with that over your head. I don’t care how successful Coughlin has been in the past, you can’t overcome that one.

I know that Coughlin has always been old school, or a hardass, take your pick.

And the old school rules about no slouching in meetings. And no hats in meetings. And no sunglasses on the practice field.

And maybe that has worked in the past, but it wasn’t working here. 

But when you’re dropping near six figure fines on a guy for sitting on a bench or when you’re going nearly three quarters of a million on a guy for not rehabbing at the facility, and then you lose those cases, you have to ask – what is the point?

A team went from one play away from the Super Bowl to ten wins in two years. The hardass fine everyone for everything approach wasn’t working and it was driving guys away. So for who? For what?

For now, he’s out of a job, so he won’t be doing it for anyone for any reason. He’ll still get that yellow blazer for his body of work: but that last bit of work he just did is going to stick to him; and ding his legacy: dude was an abject failure his second time through J ville. And virtually everything he touched turned to crap. And now Shad Kahn has to drop a bomb on it and completely start over. Just two years removed from a near Super Bowl run. That type of implosion is pretty rare. Then again, so is the NFLPA telling its players to stay the hell away from a team: the Jags had no choice? And Coughlin better find a hobby other than breakings everyone’s nads, because no one is going to get that guy a gig that matters after he just nuked that franchise.