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Coughlin faces attendance, ratings question


He is being held responsible for everything from a "12-men-on-the-field" penalty this past Sunday to the two-year decline of ticket sales and TV ratings. No wonder Tom Coughlin said yesterday that this has been his "most difficult" season as coach of the Jaguars.

Coughlin was questioned at his noon press conference today by a Jacksonville media person who does not regularly cover the team. Between benign questions about the weather and wanting to finish the season on a positive note, the reporter came forth with a bold question supported by firm statistics.

"Attendance at home games the last two years has been about 10,000 fans lower than it was in '98; TV share points this season are down 14 from '99. Why do you think fewer fans are watching the games?" the reporter asked.

Coughlin paused, then offered: "I don't know that I have a real good answer for that. That's been brought up in here before. Certainly, you'd like to say our record is an indicator, but I don't think it necessarily is because, coming off '99 in the 2000 season, it began to show those numbers. I think it's probably a deeper problem than that and I know Mr. Weaver is looking at it and wants to address it."

Welcome to Coughlin's world. Happy new year!

In a week that began with kicker Mike Hollis accusing Coughlin of being heavy-handed in his dealings with players, the Jaguars coach has faced a barrage of pointed questions from the media. Even the Chicago media got into the act when, during their teleconference with Coughlin Wednesday, they asked if he was disappointed he hadn't been included as a candidate for the Notre Dame job.

Hollis used the media for a second time this week, this time to apologize for the remarks he made Monday. "I said things I regret now. First, I want to apologize to Tom for calling him out. I didn't mean to," Hollis said.

His remarks were thought to speak for the majority of players in the Jaguars locker room, but veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell said he has had no trouble dealing with Coughlin's coaching personality.

"We communicate. You've got to know what he expects. He expects you to come to work each and every day, and to be the ultimate professional. That doesn't bother me," McCardell said of Coughlin's demanding ways. "I come to work for Keenan. I don't need anyone to motivate me or discipline me. I'm the first one who knows I've done wrong."

Meanwhile, Coughlin continues to be trapped in a season that has become a firestorm of disappointment. This Sunday, the season will end, and Coughlin will conduct his traditional season-in-review press conference the following day.

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