This is the week for which football fans of northern Florida have waited. On the surface, it's the return of Florida Gators legend Steve Spurrier, but there's so much more to it than a simple, wholesome homecoming.
Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin admitted to reporters today that he was aware of an outcry by Spurrier supporters last winter to Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver to fire Coughlin and hire Spurrier. Instead, Weaver announced on the day Spurrier resigned as head coach at the University of Florida that Coughlin would be offered a contract extension.
"You try not to let anything affect you personally. Was I aware the comments were being made? Yes. You try not to let it affect you," Coughlin said at today's two p.m. press conference.
He didn't reveal whether he was offended by the "hire Spurrier" sentiments, choosing to answer the question ambiguously.
"It depends how callused you are," he said. "It depends on your faith and your emotional belief in life."
This Sunday, Coughlin will attempt to lead his Jaguars to a victory over Spurrier and the visiting Washington Redskins. Coughlin will stand on the home side of Alltel Stadium, but it's expected Spurrier will hear most of the cheers. And Fred Taylor knows his former coach at Florida will play to the crowd.
"He's going to come in here with a bag of tricks and he's going to try to put up a lot of points for the fans. He knows what the fans want to see," Taylor said.
The Redskins are 4-4 and coming off consecutive wins over Indianapolis and Seattle. Former Gator Shane Matthews has been reinstated as the Redskins' starting quarterback, but it's been the running game that has carried the Redskins to victory the past two weeks.
Of course, that's not what Spurrier fans want to see. They want to see the ball in the air early and often. So, which will it be? Will Spurrier try to please the fans, or win the game?
The Jaguars are only interested in a win. Style points mean nothing to a team on a four-game losing streak.
"It would be nice to start with one (win)," Coughlin said.
The Jaguars' desperate state was possibly worsened by two injuries in Sunday night's loss to the Giants. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud suffered a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee when he was roll-blocked by Giants offensive tackle Mike Rosenthal. "I thought it was vicious; not part of the game," Coughlin said of the block.
Taylor was kicked in the lower back in the third quarter of a game that was a personal nightmare. He was unable to pull in a perfectly thrown deep ball in the second quarter, and his rushing stats were a dismal nine yards on six carries.
"In all honesty, on my grandmother's life, I lost it in the lights," Taylor said of the pass.
"I saw coach said I didn't run it up in there. That's probably because they were in my face. But I'm not going to get into a scrap with him," Taylor added.
Stroud and Taylor were each scheduled for a battery of tests today that would determine the extent of their injuries and their availability for this Sunday's game. Both players returned to the game after they were injured; Stroud very prominently and Taylor for only a few plays.
Meanwhile, offensive tackle Zach Wiegert was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in Nebraska on Tuesday. The surgery could reveal more extensive damage to Wiegert's knee and require further surgery that could prolong his absence.
"I'm prepared for that," said Coughlin, who said he will be informed of Wiegert's prognosis as soon as it is known.