No, He Hasn't Gone Soft. but He's Not Drawing Comparisons to Dictators Anymore Either. the Jaguars Are Seeing Another Side of Their Coach, Because Tom Coughlin Is . . . A CHANGED MAN

By Prisco, Pete | The Florida Times Union, December 15, 1996 | Go to article overview

No, He Hasn't Gone Soft. but He's Not Drawing Comparisons to Dictators Anymore Either. the Jaguars Are Seeing Another Side of Their Coach, Because Tom Coughlin Is . . . A CHANGED MAN


Prisco, Pete, The Florida Times Union


Saturday is doughnuts day for the Jaguars, a tradition of

sorts. It is a day for rookies to fetch the morning meal for

the veterans prior to the day's work.

The players, those who arrive early enough, gather in the

locker room lounge to eat the doughnuts and talk about life,

usually about things other than football. It is loose, fun and a

way to get away from the pressures of the NFL.

It is also the last place you would expect to find Jaguars

coach Tom Coughlin, the last place you would think players would

want their disciplined, driven coach.

But for most of the second half of the season, including

yesterday, Coughlin has been a welcomed visitor to these

sessions. Right smack in the middle of players, Coughlin can be

seen laughing and joking, nearly as loose as his players.

"It has changed a great deal," Jaguars cornerback Robert Massey

said. "When I first got here, doughnuts was just a players'

thing. Now there's Tom eating doughnuts, drinking coffee or

milk, right there with us."

It wasn't always that way. In fact, players reluctantly tell

the story of one of Coughlin's first attempts to be part of

their Saturday ritual earlier this season.

Coughlin came in and sat down in the middle of 11 players who

were sitting on the couches in the middle of the Jaguars' locker

room. Players were stunned, looking at each other in disbelief.

Then something happened. each slowly got up and left -- leaving

Coughlin alone.

"They were probably shocked it happened [that Coughlin sat

down]," linebacker Tom McManus said.

Coughlin now is welcomed, and it's not just because the Jaguars

have won three in a row to go to 7-7.

It's because he has changed.

The coach who was compared to Gen. George S. Patton in this

week's Sports Illustrated has become more understanding of his

players. Not only has he pulled back in his practice routine,

but Coughlin has changed in terms of how he deals with his

players.

The fear that once kept him distant and removed has been

replaced by an openness, a sense of understanding.

"Quite a metamorphosis," defensive tackle John Jurkovic said.

"Like the caterpillar becoming the butterfly. Even from the

beginning of the season, he's more approachable, more accessible

to the players. The change is monumental."

"I think he's lightened up," defensive tackle Don Davey said.

"He's not Mr. High Strung, Mr. Focus, Mr. Explode on every

little thing. I think he's trying to be one of the guys, and

guys appreciate that."

Coughlin laughed when told his players said they used to get up

when he sat down for the doughnuts session. But he is aware that

it's a far better situation now.

"I'm more comfortable with them," Coughlin said. "It's part of

the process of people getting to know one another. There's more

to the individual than a few spoken words each morning or a

meeting here, a meeting there. It's part of the growth. But it

is very comfortable for me to go in there and bat the breeze

with them."

Bat the breeze? Coughlin?

"We're beginning to understand one another," Massey said. "He

rides the guys when they bring in cold doughnuts. It's come a

long way . . . a real long way. All of that is interacting. In

any relationship, it takes time."

CHANGES BEGET WINS

The Jaguars are a happy bunch. The players are happy. Coughlin

is happy. The locker room is, quite frankly, a happy place.

The playoffs are a possibility. When you think of where this

team has come from to get into the race, there's reason for the

good feeling. …

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