Tom Coughlin was glowing. A week ago he spoke of regret. Today, Coughlin was all about appreciation.
He praised the effort of all of his players, but focused the bulk of his compliments on his quarterback, Mark Brunell. In eight years, Coughlin has never spoken more glowingly of Brunell.
"He's into it big-time," Coughlin said of Brunell's field generalship, which surfaced in several major ways Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, as Brunell led the Jaguars to their first win of the season.
The first example of Brunell's impact on the game occurred inside the three-minute mark of the second quarter. Facing a fourth-and-five at the Chiefs 37-yard line, Coughlin decided to go for the first down. First, he called time out.
On the sideline, Brunell convinced Coughlin to call a particular short-pass play to wide receiver Jimmy Smith. Brunell insisted on maximum protection, instead of flooding the passing lanes with receivers.
"He was very emphatic about it and I said let's do that. He was very emphatic about what he wanted. If he believes in it that much, he'll sell it to those other 10 guys. He wanted it," Coughlin said.
"Mark's experience puts him in a position … he's earned the right. I like that. I like that a lot," the coach added.
At least for now, the coach-quarterback relationship couldn't be better.
And that might also describe the state of the Jaguars. On the heels of an impressive road victory, the Jaguars are feeling very good about themselves in this bye week. And Coughlin is feeling good about his team.
"There's a real sense of closeness on this team. They have a very good attitude. It's the effort thing," Coughlin said.
Coughlin has often been criticized for being excessively harsh on his players, especially following a loss, as was the case a week ago. Winning would seem to have changed all of that. Criticism was replaced by praise. Talk of cutting a player gave way to support, as in the case of rookie placekicker Hayden Epstein.
"We've obviously got to be able to count on the points," Coughlin said, referring to a miss from 43 yards in the second half with the Jaguars leading 9-6. That miss was Epstein's second in four tries this season. "For now, he is the kicker. He's going to improve, but that field goal percentage has got to be better."
This was a different Tom Coughlin.