Jacksonville is a soft-hearted town full of warm people who love to express sentimentality. We saw that during Tony Boselli's "Pride of the Jaguars" induction ceremony.
If you're thinking of making Monday night's game a Tom Coughlin love-in, however, forget about it. Coughlin won't allow it.
During the owners meetings last March in Orlando, I made a point of approaching Coughlin about the anticipation for his return to Jacksonville. He knew where I was headed and he was ready for me. There was no way I was going to ambush his soft side.
I forget exactly what was said, but it went something like this:
"Oh, so you want me to get all emotional about it, right?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Well, I'm not gonna do that," Coughlin said.
I knew, of course, he wasn't going to do that. I was just havin' some fun with the old ball coach, and the way to do that is to go to his soft side. He can't handle it; has to hide it.
Coughlin is a tough-times guy. He's always done his best coaching under adversity. His performance in 2002, when he was facing the greatest adversity of his coaching career, was masterful. He won six games and started the season 3-1 with a team that had less talent on it than his inaugural-season team. To this day, I don't know that I've ever seen a better coaching performance than what Coughlin and his staff did in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Cleveland by a combined three points.
The Jaguars lost those games on a failed two-point conversion attempt and a final-play "Hail Mary" by Cleveland. The Jaguars didn't turn the ball over in either game and didn't commit a penalty in the Steelers game, and despite a combined time of possession disadvantage of more than 27 minutes, the Jaguars nearly won 'em both. Now that's what I call coachin'.
Bad coaching isn't what cost Coughlin his job in Jacksonville. Bad "capping" is what cost him his job. Coughlin was put into the position of having to coach as he did in '02 because the team's salary cap had been grossly abused.
Coughlin is now protected by a Giants personnel and salary cap philosophy that doesn't permit wild spending, and the Jaguars have learned a lesson from mistakes they are committed never to repeat. You could say it's worked out for the best for both Coughlin and the Jaguars, but don't expect Coughlin to take that soft approach on Monday night. He's never coached a game he didn't consider to be the equivalent of war.
If you're one of those sentimental types, you might want to suppress your emotions on Monday night. It's not likely Coughlin is going to wave and blow kisses.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Giants.
- Feed off the crowd—Jaguars fans are likely to have their wiggle sticks standing straight up.
- Stop Tiki Barber—He's the guy that makes the Giants offense go. He's the NFL's leading rusher and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. This is the game right here.
- Don't drop passes—We saw enough of that against the Texans.
- Run the ball—That's what the Jaguars do best and the second half of the season is when teams should do what they do best.
- Know what this is—This is, for all practical purposes, a must-win game.
- Pressure Manning—He likes to throw off his back foot, which means he doesn't like to be rushed.
- Play high—In the air, I mean, because Plaxico Burress is the best play-high receiver in the league.
- Look at the scores—From Sunday's games. Pay particular attention to the scores from the Chiefs' and Jets' games. Those are the teams the Jaguars have to beat in the wild-card race.
- Make a statement—Who could deny the Jaguars respect with two Monday night wins in a season?
- Make the turkey taste good—It won't taste very good chewing on a loss.