Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

A Football Coach: It Takes All Types

I’ve always been intrigued by the personalities in sports. Players and coaches thrown together from all kinds of different backgrounds and different cultures all trying to accomplish the same goal: win.

Pretty simple when you watch the games, see plays develop, hear the analysis of the how and why. But being around teams day after day, game after game gives you a glimpse into the dynamic that happens between players in the locker room or clubhouse, between players and coaches and even between the coaches themselves.

You’ve heard often about a coach “losing his team” when things are going poorly. That’s easy to spot. When the cameras are turned off and the writers walk away, a small aside from a player that could seem unrelated is the first indication that this thing is going south.

Sometimes players will straight up tell you they’re playing just to finish the season and get something good on tape for the next year.

Assistant coaches can be a good barometer for what’s going on around a team. Their body language, the occasional roll of the eyes or even a raised eyebrow in certain situations can let you know things aren’t good. Players and assistants know when the head coach is in trouble. And contrary to whatever public pronouncements they make, head coaches know it was well.

So how do they keep it all together, especially when it looks like it’s coming apart at the seams?

For most head coaches it’s through sheer force of personality. While the head coach is the face of the team to the public, the assistants are the ones with the constant, close contact to the players. So keeping the assistants “in the fold” is paramount to a coach’s and ultimately a team’s success.

I’ve seen it done a million different ways. Vince Dooley was highly respected and sometimes even feared by his coaches and players. But he was a master motivator, organized and had unquestioned football acumen.

Bobby Bowden appeared to be liked by everybody, and he was. But there was an underlying tipping point his players and coaches knew you didn’t cross. Plus they knew he knew the game inside and out and would come up with something they hadn’t thought of.

Steve Spurrier was known as the “Evil Genius” even among those close to him. His innovation and unflinching desire to win attracted a certain type of player and coach to his side.

Tom Coughlin was unique and has had a change of style in his professional career. In Jacksonville he was the detached general, detail oriented, relentless in his preparation and feared by everybody. With the Giants, Coughlin’s coaching ability hasn’t wavered, but his ability to get his message through to the players, and his willingness to adapt to the changing football culture has won him two Super Bowl’s.

Coughlin once said that a team had to have “an intense affection for one another” in order to be a winner. His now put himself in that group.

Jack Del Rio is every player’s friend, which plays well initially but wears thin quickly. It’s no coincidence that he had more assistants come and go than any other head coach in the league during his tenure in Jacksonville. When things are going well, that “player’s coach” approach works but when they’re not, it’s hard to get the best out of everybody.

Mark Richt has a low-key personality that matches his coaching style that drives some fans crazy. But he’s prepared and the players believe in him so they’ll play hard when it matters.

Urban Meyer was coolly detached from everybody but his star players and he leaned on those few to not only get the job done but also get his message across.

Few coaches have outwardly displayed their intensity like Will Muschamp. But rather than fear him, his players believe in him, like him, know he’ll be prepared and match his confidence both on an off the field.

Mike Mularkey’s goal is to put players in positions to succeed. He’s the ideal professional coach for a team that believes in him and his staff. He’s always prepared and level-headed and won’t ever “lose” his team but needs players who can see success in front of them without fear of failure.

It’s a funny profession that attracts all types.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

“Taking Their Lumps” Jaguars Growing Pains?

“I’m just tired of losing,” Maurice Jones Drew said in the postgame locker room after the Bears beat the Jaguars 41-3. “It’s been five years. I’m tired of not sleeping at night. I’m tired of not being able to play with my kids after a win. I’m tired.”

And with that, MJD summed up what most Jaguars fans are feeling after three blowout losses at home this year. They’re tired.

Despite a change in ownership and in coaching staff and a clear upgrade at several positions, the Jaguars look like the same team. How can that be?

It’s easy to instantly blame it on Blaine Gabbert. The quarterback is supposed to get the ball where it’s supposed to be on time and that is supposed to result in first downs and touchdowns. We saw a little bit of that in the first half against the Bears as well as the entire game in Minnesota. But inexplicably it disappears almost as quickly as it arrived.

“I don’t have an answer,” Gabbert told the assembled media. “Obviously I have to play better. Two pick sixes is not acceptable but we’re working hard and practicing well. I don’t know what we can do differently right now.”

Gabbert is right, he can play better, show more confidence and take some of the quick things that are given to him as the defense figures out the Jaguars offensive game plan. He’s just a half second tentative at times and that’s all it takes to not be able to dump it off or fire it in there when it counts.

His two interceptions for touchdowns can be blamed on someone else, and to his credit, he shouldered the responsibility. Head Coach Mike Mularkey told us in his post game press conference that Justin Blackmon ran the wrong route on the first one and it was obvious that the second one went off MJD’s hands. (While we’re on that play, how come the Bear’s linebackers were right on the Jaguars backs on the circle route and every time the Bears would run the same route out of the backfield the Jaguars linebackers would be two steps away?)

When asked if he would consider a quarterback change during the bye week Mike said a quick, “No,” But added, “We’ll evaluate everything, including me. It’ll give us a chance to look at our selves.”

That’s the right thing to say but they’ve come to the point in the season where they have to make a decision on Gabbert. Either they’re going to stick with him to see if he improves as the season progresses and then decide what to do with him, or put Chad Henne in the game to see if he provides a spark.

Henne was no world-beater in Miami, but right now he appears to be the quarterback that would give the Jaguars the best chance to win. If they stick with Gabbert, they’ll continue to take their lumps in between flashes of brilliance, a la the throw to Cecil Shorts in the Colts game.

“I told the team in the locker room that over the next two weeks, no matter what is said or written, we know we’re closer than anybody knows. We’ve hurt ourselves in certain situations but we’re closer to getting it done that it might appear from the outside.” When challenged on that by one scribe who said the small offensive production is a “trend,” Mularkey looked at the guy and said, “I told you what I think. I’m on the inside. You’re on the outside. I can say it louder if you like.”

He really believes it.

Let’s all hope he’s right.