Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags' Draft Recipe: Find Best Ingredients

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags' Draft Recipe: Find Best Ingredients

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino, Times-Union sports writer

Tom Coughlin's mentor, Bill Parcells, once said if you want him to cook the meal, you should let him buy the groceries.

He was referring to his dispute with owner Bob Kraft over control of the New England draft that led to his departure from the Patriots after the 1996 season.

Parcells not only wanted to coach the players, he wanted to pick them.

That's the power many coaches seek and owner Wayne Weaver gave Coughlin that power when he hired him to be the Jaguars coach in 1994.

Coughlin not only buys the groceries, but boils the water, chops the celery and tosses in the seasoning.

And he will be looking to fill his shopping cart with some choice cuts of prime beef Saturday and Sunday in the NFL Draft, which is taking on more importance in the Jaguars' future.

The team, can no longer afford to sign big money free agents the way they have in the past. They need an infusion of young talent.

This year, they have the ninth pick on the first round, the first time they've selected that high since taking Fred Taylor in 1998. The Jags also have needs at so many spots that it doesn't matter if Coughlin drafts for need as he's often done in the past. They don't have to pass up a good player because they don't have a need at that position.

"We can look at the best athletes on the board," Weaver said.

Few head coaches are as hands-on in the draft as Coughlin. Besides making all the final decisions, he makes stops on the college pro-day circuit, personally times players in the 40 and conducts interviews.

How successful Coughlin has been as the Jaguars' draft chef in his first seven drafts is a matter of debate. The only person whose opinion counts is Weaver's, and he gives Coughlin's drafts good reviews.

While conceding that some teams have drafted better, Weaver puts the Jaguars "someplace from the middle to the upper quadrangle."

When he was asked if the team had to improve its drafting in the future, Weaver said, "I disagree [with the suggestion] that we haven't done well in our drafts."

He admits the selection of R. Jay Soward in the first round two years ago didn't turn out well. Soward is suspended for the season and isn't expected to play for the Jaguars again.

"He's an unfortunate story," Weaver said. "The young man had outstanding football talent, but he had demons to deal with. We did everything in our power to try to help him, but we weren't successful."

Soward isn't the only pick Coughlin has missed. Coughlin has failed to draft a Pro Bowl player in the past five seasons, has only one player (Tony Brackens) on the team from his first three drafts and kept only five of the 10 players he drafted last year.

Coughlin already has invested one of this year's draft choices -- the fifth-rounder -- without getting anything in return. …

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