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View from the O-Zone: Time to get tough


JACKSONVILLE – The wait was worth it – oh, was it worth it.

There were many details about Tom Coughlin's pre-NFL Scouting Combine media availability at EverBank Field Friday that mattered. Coughlin, the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations, was speaking publicly for the first time since his January introductory press conference, and that meant this was his first time speaking publicly having really dug his teeth into this organization.

That made Friday significant, but what was really significant was something above the details. Once again, the man in charge set a tone.

Oh, did he set a tone.

"We have work to do—we have work to do," Coughlin said.

Coughlin made it clear that work had to come from every area of the organization, and he also made clear that this process of getting the Jaguars to where he wants them to be is very much a team approach.

He also offered a few newsy details during the 20-plus-minute session in the defensive meeting room at the 'Bank, covering topics such as Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, a pending trade for Miami Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert and Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey. (Coughlin, for the record, believes Bortles has work to do, that there's no reason the Albert trade won't happen and that Ramsey can be a very good player.)

But the details of Friday matter less than Coughlin's overriding message, and that message was about toughness.

Coughlin was clear Friday he believes the Jaguars need more of it.

He was also clear that getting it, showing it and making it an organizational trademark is an absolute priority. He was asked if the Jaguars did not show toughness at times in recent seasons.

"At times," he said. "It may not be the key word, but it is part of it. There's a mental toughness part of this thing I'm talking about, too. You've got to finish."

The topic first arose when he was talking about receivers coach Keenan McCardell, who played for Coughlin and who Coughlin clearly believes can help set the proper tone.

"It starts with toughness," Coughlin said. "Now, that's not the first thing on most people's list when it comes to talking about receivers, but you talk about a guy who was tough … He wouldn't miss a practice with a separated shoulder. That's a little bit of something that has to happen. This league can benefit from more of that attitude and this team [can benefit] from that attitude as well. You're a pro.

"This isn't pass-and-tap. It's a tough game. It's a tough business. You have to play through some things if your team is going to succeed."

Take that last paragraph, italicize it and put on the wall because that sums up Coughlin's approach, and indeed toughness and a hard-edge was the thread that ran through Friday's highlight moments. Coughlin also on Friday talked extensively of the running game, and was asked how much it bothered him that the Jaguars passed so much more than they ran last season.

"A lot" was his reply, adding that it helps your quarterback not a bit to take such an approach in the running game.

He also talked extensively of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, including his professionalism and of "the attitude he brings to the table."

"I like that when you talk to the guy he's very serious about the game and about this team and about doing something with this team," Coughlin said.

Posluszny also happens to be, you know … tough.

That likely doesn't hurt in Coughlin's eyes, and it's clear, too, that there is a philosophical direction about this version of the Jaguars that coming into focus. Head Coach Doug Marrone is nothing if not tough, and Coughlin discussed the old-school approach he and Marrone have in common.

"Doug's an old-school guy," Coughlin said. "I'm an old-school guy. The messages are going to be exactly or very the same. I don't think there's going to be real mystery to what the presentation is going to be, what we believe in, how the game should be played, how a man should conduct himself with his family, et cetera, away from the building.

"There won't be any misunderstandings with regard to that."

Indeed, on that front there will be no misunderstanding. The Jaguars need to improve their talent. They need to improve a lot. But they also need to toughen up. They need to finish. They need to be more professional. This wasn't just lip service from Coughlin Friday, and it wasn't just press-conference banter. This is something Coughlin wants to establish as the core of the foundation, as its base.

If it wasn't clear before, it sure was clear Friday. No, Coughlin hadn't spoken publicly about the Jaguars in six weeks, and yeah, that was a long time between hearing his thoughts. But the wait was worth it.

Oh, was it worth it.

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