JACKSONVILLE – The plan worked. No question.
"It turned out better than certainly I thought it would," Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said late Thursday afternoon.
Khan with that quote was discussing the hiring this past January of former Head Coach Tom Coughlin as Executive Vice President of Football Operations, a hiring that came the same day Doug Marrone was hired as head coach and Dave Caldwell was retained as general manager.
It was a memorable, seismic day for the franchise and a key day on the path to where the Jaguars will be Sunday. That place:
EverBank Field for the franchise's first home playoff game since 1999.
That game will mark the first postseason game in Khan's six seasons as owner, as well as serving as another very public, high-profile step forward for a franchise that hasn't appeared in the postseason in a decade – and that hadn't previously come close to a winning season in Khan's tenure.
Khan on Thursday sat down with local writers and beat reporters in his suite at EverBank Field, discussing a variety of football-related topics – including just what winning the AFC South in 2017 has meant after six consecutive double-digit loss seasons.
"It's made it worth it, but it's like a public validation that what we did is working," he said.
The Jaguars indeed had experienced off-field success under Khan, with significant progress to the facilities at EverBank Field, major upgrades in fan experience and progress toward financial stability.
Winning on the field, Khan said, was the final piece of that equation.
"To me, what's important is we want to have something that's sustainable and gets better and better," he said. "Winning, from Day One, has been obviously on the field, but there have been two other elements to winning: the impact you have on the community and the 'money winning.'
"If you're not winning moneywise, then you can't invest. A couple of the things we control: what we do off the field, what we do in the community. We don't control the third component."
Khan returned to the original question of whether the success this season the time leading to that point worth it.
"Does it make it worthwhile?" he said. "Yeah, you have that third win. It kind of completes that puzzle."
Khan for the most part in Thursday's meeting with local media focused on football, discussing in detail his decision last January to hire Coughlin and retain Caldwell as general manager with Marrone as the head coach. It was a three-headed leadership approach that raised skeptical eyebrows in NFL circles.
The key to its success?
Khan said it was the presence of Coughlin, the Jaguars' head coach from 1995-2002 who coached the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles from 2004-2015.
"It's a structure that's been unsuccessful in the past," Khan said. "But for me, what I felt we lacked [around the Jaguars] was football I.Q. You can't say, 'Let me go to Craigslist or BackPage.com and let me get some football I.Q.' You want somebody who it's not just a job, but who has the passion, the emotion and the drive.'
"Nobody really personifies it better than Tom Coughlin."
Khan on Thursday specified that Coughlin never asked for control of the 53-man roster during the hiring process.
"It was my idea," Khan said, adding that he told Coughlin at the time, "It's maybe not good for Dave's ego, but there has to be somebody in charge and it needs to be you."
Khan said neither Coughlin, Caldwell not Marrone knew of his organizational plan "until within 10-to-15 minutes of it happening."
"It was basically, 'If you don't like it, tell me and I'll do something else, but I think this is what we need moving forward,''' Khan said.
Khan said something else that stood out during the process was something he mentioned when the trio was announced nearly a year ago – that, as he put it, "everybody" wanted to interview for the Jaguars' head-coaching position last January.
"A lot of the candidates you guys know or were leaked," Khan said. "The big thing is you'd be shocked how many were gainfully employed and who really wanted to be here. Some of them we could talk to; some of them we couldn't."
Khan said there were two reasons that was the case: the Jaguars' talent level, and how the organization handled the early part of a building process that had begun 2013 with the hiring of Caldwell and then-Head Coach Gus Bradley.
"They wanted to be a part of it," Khan said. "The best thing for me is it really, really gave me insight as to where we are and what we need to do. This job is just too hard for the conventional business model of, 'You have a general manager who hires the coach' unless you have somebody like [New England Patriots Head Coach] Bill Belichick or what have you.
"Bottom line: how do you get people who are going to pull toward one goal, which is winning, and not be focused on who gets the credit or who gets the blame?
"This was the one time for us to be able to get that right."
Khan declined to discuss contract extensions for the trio, saying "I think they've done a great job, and I would like nothing better, but I'm not sure if this is the right time to discuss that."
As far as when Khan said he knew his season had a chance to be special, he said the answer was easy: a Week 5 victory over Pittsburgh. The victory moved the Jaguars to 3-2 on the season – but from a perception perspective, Khan said it did much more.
"I knew it was special because the game was televised up in the Detroit and Chicago area, and I heard from a lot of people in the automotive business – half-joking and half-serious – that they didn't appreciate all of the high-fiving I was doing after the game," Khan said with a laugh. "They happened to be Steelers fans and a senior person from the automotive business said, 'We're going to have to put your business up for review. We have to see how important the automotive business is to you.'
"So, with the feedback I got, you know it was special."