Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin's Public Demeanor Hasn't Helped

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coughlin's Public Demeanor Hasn't Helped

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Coughlin has long insisted that who he is and how he has been portrayed are vastly different.

Coughlin claims he can't comprehend why he is still viewed largely as the same humorless taskmaster he was during the Jaguars' first training camp in 1995, when assistants couldn't wear sunglasses on the field, players couldn't take their helmets off and everyone had to stand in 110-degree Wisconsin heat.

"That was seven years ago!" Coughlin said.

What the only coach in Jaguars history hasn't understood is that first impressions are all but impossible to erase with fans and the media, especially if -- as in Coughlin's case -- you don't even seem to try.

So instead of two AFC Championship Game appearances in four years and the most successful start by an expansion franchise in NFL history, Coughlin's image with the Jaguars remains that of a drill sergeant because he rarely showed another side to the public.

After today, it also could be his legacy.

By all indications, even from the coach himself, Coughlin's job is in jeopardy because of three consecutive losing seasons and slumping home attendance. Owner Wayne Weaver is feeling pressure to make dramatic changes to revive lagging interest in his franchise.

If Coughlin is dismissed after this afternoon's season finale against the Indianapolis Colts, he can't blame his departure only on bad luck, injuries and draft choices that didn't work out. He also will have to blame himself.

Some NFL coaches reach out to the fans and cultivate relationships with the media because they know that both can be allies when times get tough and losses mount. That's especially true in the salary-cap age, when success is difficult to maintain more than two or three years in a row.

Build a rapport with the fans, and they might mount vocal goodwill campaigns on your behalf and keep coming even in losing seasons. …

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