JACKSONVILLE – Fourteen years later, he's back.
Tom Coughlin never imagined this day would happen because few could have predicted it, but the first head coach in Jaguars history on Thursday morning made his first public comments in his new role running the team's football operations.
"Winning is what this this is all about," Coughlin said midway through a press conference at EverBank Field.
If that was the morning's destined-to-live-forever, tone-setting moment, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan later made clear he believed it was the right, necessary tone.
"No kidding," Khan said when asked if he enjoyed the comment. "Absolutely, I did. That is what we talked about the first time I met him. It should be the focus of everything."
Khan was asked what resonated about Coughlin's football philosophy.
"It is hard work and winning," Khan said. "Those are the two fundamental facts of life. He not only gets that, he embraces them. He lives it. He articulates it."
Coughlin and Khan both spoke to the media during Thursday's 10 a.m. press conference to introduce Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone in their positions. Khan when announcing the hirings Monday said Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell both report to Coughlin.
Coughlin on Thursday said he and Caldwell will work as a team on personnel issues. Khan said he expects the same, but said Coughlin has final say over football matters – including the 53-man roster.
"We've got three key people here leading the football operation," Khan said. "Most decisions, I think, come to a natural conclusion. If by circumstance it wasn't, obviously Tom has the call over it. He would be making that final decision."
Coughlin, 70, coached the Jaguars from their inaugural 1995 season through 2002, leading the franchise to a 68-60 regular-season record, two AFC Central titles, two AFC Championship Game appearances and four playoff appearances.
"I told Mr. Khan a few weeks ago that I have a vested interest in the historical presence and success of the Jacksonville Jaguars here in Jacksonville, Florida," Coughlin said. "I believe our great fans deserve a team that they can be proud of.
"Will this be easy? Of course not. If it was easy, anybody could do it."
Coughlin coached the New York Giants from 2004-2015, finishing 102-90 with Super Bowl titles following the 2007 and 2011 seasons. He spent this past season with the NFL office as a senior adviser to football operations.
Khan called Coughlin's hiring "a homecoming."
"Tom is an iconic guy," Khan said. "The success, obviously the Jaguars had – the greatest amount – he was a part of the foundation and part of the birth of the Jaguars. …"
Of Coughlin's powerful bigger-than-life personality, Khan added, "I think it is has been great. It worked here and it worked for the Giants."
Coughlin on Thursday emphasized that while much of Thursday's media focus was on his return, "it's not about me."
"It's not about any one individual," he said. "It's about team. It's about the concept of team, of team above self, of unselfish commitment to team. Team above all else will define the Jaguars moving forward."
Images from Thursday's press conference as Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin were formally introduced as new head coach and executive vice president of football operations, respectively.
Khan originally met with Coughlin shortly after relieving former Head Coach Gus Bradley of his duties on December 18. He said he wouldn't have met with Coughlin before dismissing Bradley, and said the timing of Bradley's dismissal helped the process of restructuring the organization and making this week's hires.
Khan also said his initial conversations with Coughlin weren't about specific positions. Coughlin had been rumored late last offseason to be interested in returning to the NFL as a head coach.
"We didn't even talk about what he wants to do," Khan said. "I just wanted to listen – what happened [with him] over the years and why success has eluded us. What do we need to do? For me, he is an iconic Jaguar ambassador and [to be] able to sit down for a day with him, it gave me a lot of depth and understanding of what we need to do."
Coughlin on Thursday said the position overseeing football operations "was the role I really anticipated and wanted at this point in my career."
Khan said Thursday there was really only one outcome of his discussions with Coughlin.
"Tom had to return to Jacksonville," Khan said.
Khan said he determined in recent weeks during the search for a head coach that he wanted a structure with a position overseeing football operations – and head coach and general manager reporting to that position.
"We had a huge amount of interest in the [head-coaching] position and once we narrowed down our search, that was the time where I felt we needed to have this structure," Khan said. "Our No. 1 choice, obviously, was Tom. Early in the week, I talked to him and [asked if] that would be a role that would make great sense for him. He thought, 'Yes, it would.'"
"He told me, 'If you want to make that work, here would be the two top choices [for head coach].' Doug was the top choice for him. Then, I went back to Doug and told him we really like him, but this is the structure and he would be reporting to Tom Coughlin and then he was electric."
The executive vice-president role will be a new one for Coughlin. He has been a head coach in some capacity – at Boston College, with the Jaguars and with the Giants – in 24 of 26 seasons since 1991. He said he anticipated no desire to return to the sidelines.
"Will I anticipate any problems?" Coughlin said. "No, because I intend to put my heart and soul into being a great support for Dave and for Doug. So, I'll be living in their shoes, so to speak, but I embrace this opportunity."