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Coughlin in character

There was a new football genius in town Monday.

His name: Tom Coughlin, the guy who outcoached Steve Spurrier and showed -- for one week at least -- that the Jacksonville Jaguars did the right thing by keeping him when Spurrier was available last offseason.

Never one to gloat, at least not in public, Coughlin stayed in character the day after Jacksonville's 26-7 victory over Spurrier and the Redskins.

The Jags coach wouldn't even bite when presented with the rather obvious conclusion that he outwitted Spurrier in the game of the year in Jacksonville.

"I don't know about that," Coughlin said. "We won the game. Let's put it like that."

Whether Coughlin wants to admit it or not, the victory surely prevented what could have been an ugly week of comparisons between himself and Spurrier, the former Florida coach who was a resounding failure in his return to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs with the Gators.

Instead, Coughlin looked good in almost every comparison to Spurrier. He was everything Spurrier was not on Sunday -- disciplined, patient and, most importantly, in tune with his team's strengths and weaknesses.

While Spurrier got rightfully ripped for showing off for the hometown fans -- passing when he knew his running game was better -- Coughlin stuck to his game plan. He played defense and field position and ate up yardage on the ground, never giving up on his running game, even though it struggled at times.

"You have to stay with it," he said. "It's not always going to be automatic right off the bat. If you play the game the way you want to play it, and can stay with the run and keep the good mix, eventually you have to believe you're going to get some opportunities."

It was a lesson Spurrier should have learned halfway through the season but ignored, much to his detriment.

Jacksonville's opportunities came in the second half, when the Jaguars converted Coughlin's patient game plan into 16 points and a comfortable victory.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak and left Jacksonville (4-5) within a game of the lead in the struggling AFC South.

The day after, however, the standings weren't the big story. The headline in the local paper read, "Coughlin 1, Spurrier 0," and the whole town was still buzzing about the showdown between the two coaches.

"Everybody has egos," Jacksonville cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "But let's be honest. Everybody was talking about how Spurrier should have been the head coach here. If you're a man, you take that personal. I'm glad he did. I would be disappointed if he didn't."

Coughlin, meanwhile, wanted only to look ahead.

Asked if he was glad to have the "Spurrier monkey" off his back, the coach cracked his first joke in weeks.

"Most of my monkeys are self-created," he said.

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