The Indianapolis Colts are playing for a playoffs spot and the Jaguars are playing for nothing more than pride, but Tom Coughlin says "the message is the same: Play your best; be at your best.
"You approach it the way you always do," Coughlin said of this Sunday's regular-season finale at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis: "Try to win a football game."
Four months ago, these two teams opened their regular seasons in Jacksonville, where the Colts scored a 28-25 win. It was a game that turned on two Jaguars miscues; Mark Brunell tossed a careless interception that was returned for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half, and Damon Gibson fumbled away a Colts punt in the third quarter at the Jaguars 19-yard line, with the Jaguars holding a 17-14 lead.
They are two plays that would define the Jaguars season. A few untimely errors have cost this team wins that otherwise would've left these two teams in a showdown for a playoffs berth today.
Instead, Jaguars fans are thinking about the team's future. What will the first week of the offseason bring? Will it result in the dismissal of coach Tom Coughlin, the team's only head coach in its eight-year history?
"We always evaluate the season," Coughlin told reporters of his standard meeting with owner Wayne Weaver at the conclusion of each season. "We'll do that at his convenience once the season is over."
Coughlin has traditionally addressed the media the day after the season finale. He's scheduled to give his season-ender this Monday and said Thursday he expects to make that address.
"I'm looking forward to coaching this game and then evaluating our season, and then we'll talk, as we always talk," Coughlin said.
Meanwhile, Coughlin has focused on Sunday's game by challenging his players' pride. "Your name is on the back of your jersey. You represent the teal and black," he said.
But sticking to the "future" theme, rookie David Garrard could earn his first pro start Sunday. Mark Brunell missed all of Wednesday's and Thursday's practices with a right hamstring injury.
"Definitely, now, that I've had a whole season under my belt, I think it's at a point that I can go out and make plays for the offense," Garrard said.
If he plays Sunday in Indianapolis, Garrard's performance could impact a decision this offseason to keep, trade or release Brunell. But Garrard says he's not expecting to be handed the starting job during the offseason.
"I'm still thinking Mark is going to be here. I have to roll with whatever happens," Garrard said.
Garrard's most significant playing time this season was on Oct. 13, when he replaced Brunell early in a 23-14 loss in Tennessee. Garrard ran for two touchdowns in that game, but struggled with the pass-offense.
"I know and understand our offense much better. I think I have the capabilities now to execute a whole game (plan)," he said.