Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Weaver’s Call

I don’t know if Tom Coughlin will be back as the Jaguars Head Coach next season. I do believe that only Wayne Weaver has the answer to that question, and he might not know what the answer is yet. I also believe the decision to keep or not keep Coughlin will not be based on football. Weaver believes in Coughlin as a football coach. He believes “Tom Coughlin is the right man to return us to the Promised Land,” as he told me before the season. But Weaver is in business and in the business of making money. The Jaguars have between 23 and 26-thousand season ticket renewals due in March and according to one person inside the ticket office it would take a “bolt of lightning” to have a significant number of those people renew their tickets. Is that “bolt of lightning” firing the Head Coach? Perhaps. But that doesn’t solve all of the Jaguars problems with a snap of a finger.

This Jaguars team is similar, by Coughlin’s own admission, to the teams of 1995 and 1996. It’s young, with a few stars and has to play without mistakes and at its potential to win games. “Nobody knows this team as well as I do,” Coughlin said at his press conference on Wednesday. “And nobody knows what it takes to help this team win as well as I do. But I do know this; last year we were under .500, in Cleveland, out gained all over the field and won a game 12-10. Last Sunday, we were out gained again, and save for one play, we had the game won.”

There’s no question Coughlin knows football, and is most effective while coaching an under-talented team. He can make players over-achieve. When he had his most talented teams, particularly in 1999, he lamented his own inability to get the players “to play above the x’s and o’s.” He can do that with young players and guys scrapping to stay in the league. He hasn’t been able to do that with established stars and veterans.

So with the Jaguars rebuilding, and admitting that’s the stage they’re in, it would make sense that Coughlin would still be the right guy to coach this team. Except that they’ve heard his act this year and last and most have become numb to it. He hasn’t changed, and he doesn’t want to change. And it’s not that he has to change, but he has lost his effectiveness in getting players to “play above the x’s and o’s.” As I’ve written before, players don’t necessarily play for the coach but as one player told me after Sunday’s shocker against the Browns, “sometimes it feels like we’re playing against three teams out there. The opponent, the refs, and our own coaching staff. It ain’t easy.”

There is an avalanche of public sentiment going against Coughlin. On this website a wide majority of respondents to our front-page poll favor firing Coughlin as a solution to the Jaguars’ woes. Coughlin is aware of the way things are going, and knows he brought much of it on himself. He knows he hasn’t done a very good job of being embraceable by the fans. He has always thought that he should be judged by wins and losses and the rest will take care of itself. Perhaps that was the case twenty or thirty years ago, but there’s too much competition for the entertainment dollar these days. Fans want to win, and they want to feel good about it. Particularly in a town that has one major professional sports team.

If Weaver makes a move, it will be based on putting fans in the seats, not what the Jaguars record was this year or last. So changing from Coughlin to somebody else must mean putting a coach in that job that will lure fans back to the stadium, and potentially win games.

As my friend Vic always says when we leave the game together, “Winning is good, losing is bad. It’s that simple.”