CHICAGO--The bulldog in his personality wouldn't allow him to surrender. Tom Coughlin couldn't let it go; wouldn't let the season expire, even though everyone from Mark Brunell to the drunk in the last row knew it was over.
It is Coughlin's way; fight to the last drop of blood. In this case, the players on the field feared it would be their blood.
"That was my thought as soon as it happened," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said of his final play of this season, which occurred on the Bears' next-to-last offensive play of the game. Inside the two-minute warning and with the Bears holding a 33-13 lead in the wind and cold of Soldier Field, Coughlin used all three of his times out to delay the inevitable. It's his way and there's no changing him; he fights to the last drop of blood.
On this day, several of his players openly disagreed with their coach's decision to delay the conclusion of a 6-10 season. Wynn, who in five seasons with the Jaguars had become renown for being a person of agreeability, refused to hold back his thoughts. He's less than two months from the expiration of his Jaguars contract and the start of his pursuit of a new team, and Wynn didn't want to begin that process on a reconstructed knee.
"I thought, at first, I blew my knee out. It seemed like the whole pile came down on my knee. For it to be a close call like it was, I was pretty (honked) off. What can you do? Finish the game like it was called," Wynn said.
Apparently, it would've been too much to ask of this season that it come to an end in a less controversial manner. Why wouldn't it just pass? Why wouldn't Coughlin let it pass?
Because it's not his way; he fights to the last drop of blood. Those who respect that kind of intensity, that never-say-die attitude, are happy today. Wayne Weaver, who also respects that kind of attitude and wants that in his coach, made it clear two days previous to the season finale in Chicago that Jacksonville will continue to have that kind of man as its coach.
It's Coughlin's way; he fights to the last drop of blood. Had he done anything less than that against the Bears, he wouldn't have been able to sleep that night, or live with himself all offseason.
"We're not the scout squad. We had three times out left. We were not satisfied to let the clock run out," Coughlin said.
Actually, his players and the Bears players and a crew of officials and probably everyone else in frozen Soldier Field would've been satisfied to let the clock run out. But not Coughlin. That's not his way.
His way doesn't always make friends, but he considers football to be an endeavor that supercedes interpersonal relations. Football and the completeness of his team's effort are at the core of Coughlin's life. Few considerations are more important. That's the way he is. There is no changing him. Accept him or reject him, because there is no changing him.
Brunell rejected his coach's decision to extend the game. Brunell's comments were subtle, but also transparent.
"I was surprised, but Tom makes those decisions," Brunell said of calling the times out. "It was obvious the game was over, but that's the way it ended."
On the third-to-last play of the game, Brunell was sacked. He was spun to the turf and came up slowly on a right leg that had spent half the season in recovery. As Brunell left the field, Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache explained it was Coughlin's decision to call the times out that resulted in Blache ordering a blitz. The Jaguars then ran out the clock with two Stacey Mack runs.
Clearly, Coughlin marches to the beat of a different drummer. It is the rat-a-tat-tat of yesteryear, when no player would've complained that his coach attempted to delay defeat. If that's the kind of coach you want, then Coughlin is your man, just as he is Weaver's man.
"My concern is that no one get hurt in that senseless time," Kyle Brady said.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Smith remained in support of his coach. Had Coughlin ordered the team to run wind sprints after the game, Smith wouldn't have complained. That's the way Smith is; forever loyal.
"If it wasn't for that man, there would be no Jimmy Smith. I have his back, no matter what happens. He's a proven winner. Anytime you lose, there's going to be talk like that," Smith said.
Coughlin will need to find more players of Smith's undying loyalty. It's the personality trait that goes best with Coughlin's coaching style.