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Press conference transcript

"I have a brief statement and then I'll take some questions. Nine years ago we launched what has been called the most successful expansion franchise in NFL history, going to the playoffs four times in our first five years, two AFC Central championships and a whisper away twice from the Super Bowl in two AFC Championship games. I will tell you the person most responsible for that was Tom Coughlin. As many of our fans have agonized over the past few weeks, you can imagine what I've gone through in terms of trying to look at how we improve this football team and how we move our organization forward. I met with Tom this morning and after much discussion, I've asked Tom to step down as head coach of the Jaguars. This is a particularly sad day for me because I have such great admiration for Tom, not only as a man but as an outstanding football coach, and the contributions that both he and Judy and their family have made to the Jacksonville community and the quality of life here. I want to take this opportunity to make sure that I acknowledge and thank Tom publicly for the contributions of building a football team and a football operation here that was built to win. I can assure you that any decision that Tom ever made was made within the best interest of this football team and with the best interest of the Jaguars. They gave us great excitement. They gave us great memories. They brought both national and international focus on our community. So I think we owe Tom Coughlin a great deal of gratitude. But after this press conference, we're not going to look back. We can only look forward. I want to remind our fans that I'm committed to continuing to build a winning team and winning championships. That's always been our goal here, and I'm still very committed to that. Having said all that, I want to say to Tom Coughlin and his family, and I know I speak for the entire Jaguars organization and I know I speak for all our Jaguars fans, that we wish Tom and his family much success in the future."

(what was the ultimate factor in releasing Coughlin? Was it the wins and losses?) "Always wins and losses are important but it's not all about wins and losses. There's a point in this business where you have to say we need innovative new ideas, new fresh approaches and you have to move in different directions, and that's really what it's all about."

(when did you make this decision?) "I can't tell you exactly when I made the decision. I agonized. I didn't get much sleep last night. But in my heart it's the right decision for this franchise so that we move forward and move in a new direction. But again, it was a very difficult decision, as I said, because of my admiration for Tom as a man and as a football coach."

(on Coughlin's comment that this year is part of a three-year plan. Was this something that was discussed last year?) "I think what Tom was referring to is that when I extended his contract, he had three years left on the contract."

(what were the realistic hopes going into this season?) "I think that we got out ahead of ourselves this year. I think if you go back and read your own words that no one gave this franchise much of a chance to be anything much more than a 2-14 or 3-13 football team. We came out of the box at 3-1 after beating some really good football teams in terms of Kansas City and Philadelphia, and certainly had an opportunity to win that first game against Indianapolis. I think we all got out ahead of ourselves in terms of creating expectations that were maybe unrealistic."

(how much did ticket sales affect your decision?) "Ticket sales are a consideration but it certainly didn't affect my decision on making the change. What we have to do is re-energize our fan base and that starts with Wayne Weaver, our administrative staff and our ticketing operation. We have to do things differently than we've done before. One of my favorite sayings is 'You can't do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. That's the definition of insanity.' Well, it's a new day. We're going to do things differently both on the marketing and the football side."

(will you hire a general manager?) "I haven't made a decision on that in terms of what we're going to do. One of the things I do know is we have one of the best opportunities in the NFL. We have one of the most attractive jobs for people here in the NFL. I think it's viewed that way throughout the league. I think we're going to be able to attract the best and the brightest minds out there. We're going to get out and talk to those people and determine who can come in and help us rebuild and get back to our winning ways."

(what is the criteria that you will use in hiring a new coach?) "I think what we need is someone who sees the big picture and the primary focus is winning. But it's also about internalizing within the organization, how we come together as an organization, how we support one another as an organization, how we integrate ourselves and present ourselves to the community. So I'm looking for a very big picture guy of bright mind. Not only a football mind, but someone who sees the bigger picture."

(do you have a timetable for the new hire?) "I do have a timetable. I'd like to get it done sooner than later but I'm not going to knee jerk. Obviously as we speak, I'm assembling the names of the people that we want to contact and go out and talk to. I'd like to have it done sometime this month."

(have you spoken to the league regarding minority candidates and to determine the procedure?) "One of the things that we agreed as a league was that we would meet with minority candidates, and I think there are some good minority candidates out there that we will meet with."

(are you meeting with Dennis Green today?) "No."

(is he in town?) "Not that I'm aware of."

(did you give Coughlin the option of remaining here minus the general manager duties?) "We never got to that level of conversation."

(because of your close personal relationship with Tom over the past nine years, was this the most difficult decision you had to make?) "You can easily say that."

(what was Coughlin's reaction?) "Tom was disappointed. Tom is a very proud man that knows he's done a good job, so he was disappointed. But it was a very cordial meeting, as cordial these kinds of meetings can be. He understood my rationale and why I felt this was necessary."

(will there be more changes on the player side?) "It's going to be up to the people we bring in. I'm not a talent evaluator and I'm not going to begin to start getting involved in that side of the business. But we're going to bring in bright minds that are going to help us evaluate our roster, the people on our roster and how we move forward."

(do you feel marketing falls on the shoulders of the head coach at certain times?) "It certainly isn't the head coach's primary responsibility. I don't want to burden him with that. That's the administrative side. But clearly the football operations and the coaching (area) certainly has a role in marketing. It's supporting marketing."

(if you just hire head coach and not a general manager, won't you be repeating the same thing you said you didn't want to do?) "I didn't say I would do that. I said you don't necessarily have to have a general manager that you don't give the coach the same kind of control."

(will you have a personnel person but not give him the general manager title?) "We definitely will have more input with the coach on the personnel side than we've had in the past."

(is it your vision to have some type of personnel person running the draft?) "I haven't decided. I have a vision but I haven't decided how that structure will work. It's going to depend on the people out there and the people that I feel that can best help us reorganize, and I'm going to reorganize around those people."

(you don't anticipate having a coach run the whole show?) "No."

(do you feel Coughlin ever had any connection with the Jacksonville community and that was part of the problem you had?) "That's strange to me that people don't think that Tom had a connection with the community. Tom has done great things in this community. Judy Coughlin has done great things in this community. The Jay Fund has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to this community to at-risk children that have leukemia. So I think that it's unfair to say that Tom hasn't integrated and done that with the community."

(do you think the rough personality that Coughlin has worked against him?) "Some of us have different personalities than others. I'll tell you that Tom and his family made tremendous contributions and we should all in hindsight look back and recognize that."

(in hindsight, would you have reconsidered hiring a fan-type coach this time last year when Steve Spurrier was available?) "I said a year ago, and I don't second-guess any decision I made, that Tom Coughlin was our coach at that time. I wasn't looking for a coach. Had I been looking for a coach, probably Steve Spurrier would have been on the top of the list, but I wasn't looking for a coach at that time."

(have you talked to any of the players to get their reaction?) "No, the players were all out of here this morning. When they come in at the end of the season, they're ready to grab their stuff and hit the road. I will be in contact with some of the players. There's a letter going to each of them today that explains what we're doing and to assure them we're going to bring in the best and the brightest minds to help us rebuild and that we want them to join with us in that effort."

(did you make any changes with the rest of the coaching staff?) "We retained the rest of the coaches at this point. Obviously, I don't want to be disingenuous. Usually when you bring in a new coach, there are a lot of changes in the staff. We are going to encourage the new people to come in to interview both our personnel and our coaching staff to see who they might want to retain on staff to keep some continuity here, which I would suspect that we would. But that's going to be up to those people that we bring in to make those decisions."

(in making the decisions sooner than later, do the upcoming playoffs and Senior Bowl factor into that timetable in that some of the potential coaches will be involved in both of those?) "We've evaluated who we're going to send to the Senior Bowl right now. Certainly, our personnel people will go over, as will some of the coaches. It's going to be business as normal for the rest of our staff."

(after eight years, do you think that Coughlin lost his ability to motivate the players?) "I think any of you that watched the (Indianapolis) game yesterday would say that our players played hard. So, no, I don't agree with that at all. We just didn't get it done. I think our players played hard. We made a couple of dumb mistakes at the end. We took a couple of penalties; those things happen in an emotional ballgame. But I think the players played hard."

(on being critical of the coaching decision on the last play of the Cleveland game, did that game in particular set in your mind that you wanted to make a change?) "No. It was a spontaneous remark. I felt they were in a quick-huddle offense, a no-huddle offense, and I don't think our coaches did a very good job of recognizing that and getting our people in position and we were in the wrong coverage. There was only one place that ball could go. We should have had several people back in the end zone. So it was a mistake."

(with two other openings in the NFL, do you expect Coughlin will be back next year as a head coach in the NFL?) "I'm not going to speculate on what Tom will do or might not do. Whatever Tom does in the future, he's going to be successful."

(do you think the nucleus is there with the team to be successful or is it in the middle of a rebuilding process?) "I'm going to leave it to the new people to evaluate it. If you ask me right now, I think we have a lot of changes to make to get back to competing at the very highest level. Do I think we can do that? Absolutely. You see in this league the two teams that won the Super Bowl last year, neither one of them are in the playoffs this year. So we have a lot of parity in the league. It depends on the kind of decisions we make, the kind of personnel that we draft, and free agency. We certainly give great credit to Paul Vance and our personnel people. We've done a good job of working through our salary cap so that we're in a position next year to be active in free agency along with the draft, so I'm optimistic that we're going to start rebuilding this football team. But we have a lot of holes to fill."

(has anything in your past as a businessman prepared you for this type of decision-making, the removal of an executive at this level?) "I've replaced people at high levels in my past businesses. I don't think I've ever had one that I was quite as emotional about in terms of my respect for the job and work ethic. The kind of things that I value as an individual and the kind of things that I believe in that make people successful. This was, without a doubt, the hardest decision I've ever made."

(do you see the new coach as having NFL experience or can it be a college coach?) "A lot of head college coaches have NFL experience. Clearly NFL experience is a plus on the resume. Does it have to be that? It would depend on the individual and the chemistry that I have in the interview process and if I felt the person had the leadership qualities that I think are needed to bring us back competing at the highest levels. That's the criteria that I'm going to have. As I say, we have a huge opportunity here. I think one that's going to be very attractive and I think that we'll be able to attract the best and the brightest minds out there."

(what candidate names are on your list and do you have appointments set-up?) "Obviously, I have some people in mind. I have to do some research and check references, but I'm not ready to talk about any specific names or individuals."

(will any of the current assistant coaches be considered for the position?) "No."

(will you be talking to Jimmy Johnson or Bill Parcells?) "No."

(will you talk to Jimmy Johnson to get advice?) "I very well might. I have great respect for Jimmy Johnson and I very well might use him as a reference for some coach. He tends to know all the coaches around the league and I respect his opinion as a talent evaluator."

(do you think by adapting the theory of winning now hurt planning for the future?) "When you get competitive people together, you set your goals very high. Let me go back to what you've heard me say many times that chasing the Super Bowl is a powerful intoxicant. We chased it very hard. We were very close, as I said earlier. I read constantly where people hold Tom Coughlin responsible for our salary cap. There's only one person in this organization that was responsible for our salary cap and that was Wayne Weaver. I don't apologize for it. We had five great years. We were very close twice. I thought both times that we probably should have won those games, but mistakes didn't turn out that way. We kept the team together in 2000 because we felt that we had a chance to make another run at it. We had a lot of injuries in 2001. We had a lot of injuries. In 2001 we had the same group of Pro Bowl players. We felt we could make the run at it. We just didn't have enough depth to do that. So I don't apologize for any of that. I think we have a great tradition starting here in Jacksonville in terms of our commitment to win. That commitment is not going to change. We're going to chase the Super Bowl just as hard as we ever have. We didn't get in this business not to win."

(do you still have to think long range?) "I do think we think long range, but I'll tell you, when you have a chance to grab the big gaudy ring, you do it."

(it appears that there were a lot of short term decisions made along the way that got the team to this point) "You're entitled to an opinion, but go back and look at most franchises who have gone through these cycles."

(can fans now expect that teams will go through these cycles?) "I don't want to sound like a football expert. Let history tell you. History tells you that you do go through these cycles."

(will you make all the decisions by yourself?) "I have a lot of resources available to me and I'm smart enough to use those resources. So I'm picking the brain, I think, of the best and the brightest football minds that I believe can add value to our search. So I'm using those resources."

(will you solely be conducting the search?) "I'll have some help from some of our staff. But I'll certainly be the main person in the interview process."

(are you talking to a lot of people around the league?) "I'm going to start now talking to people that I think, as I said, can add value to this search for me."

(did you talk to Dan Rooney today?) "No."

(have you contacted the league yet?) "I have not. This is the first acknowledgement of the change."

(with the NFL diversity committee, is it part of the process that you have to contact them regarding the search?) "In helping me make this decision? No. One of the things I said earlier in this news conference is that I am committed to the diversity issue and I'm certainly going to interview minority candidates because I think there are some good ones out there. But am I going to rely on that committee to help me in this search? No."

(if the search goes beyond the end of January, is that further than you wanted to go?) "Clearly. I would like to bring this to a close sometime this month. The earlier the better."

(how much pressure from the fans factor into your decision to make this change?) "I went out and spoke probably 40 or 50 times this spring listening to our fans. I listened to our fans. But did the pressure of the emails and the fan response to Tom Coughlin influence this decision? Absolutely not. I will tell you I probably had in the last two weeks more e-mails and more notes, letters and telephone calls, even this morning, in favor of keeping Tom Coughlin than not. But the decision was made on what I really felt was in the best interest of moving this organization forward, rebuilding our football team and integrating the changes into our entire organization that we have to do to move forward."

(did you factor in a number of victories needed to retain Coughlin?) "No. I'm not a prognosticator of wins and losses. I certainly had high expectations after we got off to a great start."

(do you feel you lost a year this year with the rebuilding process maintaining the same coach?) "No, I don't. Again, I don't second guess that decision. I made that decision. I'm typically the kind of person that doesn't look back on my decisions. If you look at my track record, it's been pretty good over the years."

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