Some might say he's back. And some might say he never left.
Whatever the perspective, the Jaguars were greeted by a more demanding Tom Coughlin today when the team reported for the first day of field preparation for Sunday's game against Steve Spurrier and the Washington Redskins.
"It's the place I go when attention has to be placed on improvement," Coughlin told reporters during the coach's noon press conference today.
"We're trying to create more of that ourselves on the practice field this week," Coughlin added when asked about an increase in intensity among his players. "We're going to be more critical as a coaching staff. If a play is not run well, it will be repeated."
What's caused this heightened state of urgency? Well, it would seem to be the combination of a four-game losing streak and the local hype for this Sunday's game, which features Spurrier's return to northern Florida. Most fans view this game as a coach vs. coach encounter, pitting the most popular coach in north Florida football history against a coach who's popularity has suffered dramatically in the wake of two consecutive losing seasons.
They are two men of opposite styles. Coughlin is a run-it-again, workaholic who spent last night at "the stadium Hilton," which is Coughlin's way of saying he slept in his office. It's his usual Tuesday (gameplan day) routine.
Spurrier admittedly works fewer hours and quickly angered Saints coach Jim Haslett for making light of the long hours Haslett works. By the time Spurrier is getting into his car to drive to work in the morning, Coughlin has already met with his coaching staff and laid the groundwork for the day's events.
"This is a big game, but it's another week and we have to approach it that way," quarterback Mark Brunell said of not allowing the Spurrier-Coughlin confrontation to become a distraction. "(Spurrier's) borderline legend in these parts and he's coming back. Hopefully, we can get a win. We need a win."
Oh, how the 3-5 Jaguars need a win. But so do the 4-4 Redskins.
"The response of this team will have very little to do with Steve Spurrier and the outside circumstances. Would it be nice to get this win? Absolutely, for many reasons," Brunell said.
Coughlin was stern and to the point in answering reporters questions today. Clearly, the coach was already wearing his "game face." He spoke of the need of wide receiver Jimmy Smith to improve his performance.
"Jimmy and I have talked many times about play-makers making plays," Coughlin said. "The other night he got tied up a little more with the corners than I've seen him, but I'm not prepared to say he's lost it. He understands he's got to play better and we've all got to play better."
Marcus Stroud (knee), Fred Taylor (back) and Fernando Bryant (shoulder) were each held out of practice today but were listed as "probable" for Sunday's game. Patrick Johnson (abdomen) and Zach Wiegert are "out," and Coughlin said Johnson's injury may sideline him 2-4 weeks. Wiegert underwent knee surgery yesterday and Coughlin said he would delay comment on Wiegert's future until more information was available.
Redskins star running back Stephen Davis (knee) was listed as "questionable."