Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is facing an unusual dynamic this season that no NFL coach has ever faced.
He’s got Tom Coughlin as his boss.
Coughlin, who built the most successful NFL expansion team ever in his first tenure with the Jaguars, is back this year in a new role.
He’s the executive vice president of football operations, but he’s not the coach.
In his first stint with the Jaguars, Coughlin also ran the show, but he was the coach. So Coughlin couldn’t second-guess himself.
After being fired by the Jaguars after the 2002 season, he was hired by the Giants in 2004.
The Giants, though, hired him as a coach. He reported to the general manager, Ernie Accorsi, because the Giants don’t believe in the coach running the show.
Coughlin had a difficult transition in New York because he alienated many of the players at first with his style. He adjusted and won two Super Bowls but finished with three losing seasons in a row, going 6-10 in his final two before being fired.
Now he’s back in power with the Jaguars, and Marrone has to adjust because Coughlin isn’t going to. Coughlin is Coughlin. He has the power to run the show and he will. Marrone doesn’t work with Coughlin. He works for Coughlin.
How this dynamic is going to work is the most intriguing question of the Jaguars’ entire season.
The Jaguars were in Foxboro, Mass., on Monday having joint practices with the Patriots. As usual, Coughlin was on the field at practice the same way he is in Jacksonville. He’s not the kind of executive who spends his time in the executive suite. He is hands on.
Marrone was asked after practice what is it like having Coughlin at the practices. He gave a long answer.
“It’s been great for me,’’ Marrone said. “Coach (Coughlin) and I have a long relationship from when I was in the league. There are a lot of stories behind it where I tried to get a job with him as a GA (graduate assistant) when he was at Boston College. I really studied him a lot as a young coach and then I had the ability to really spend a lot of time with philosophy, practice, how to handle a staff, how to handle players through my time as a head coach at Syracuse and also in Buffalo.
“It’s great for me,” Marrone continued. “Make no mistake about it, it’s great. I love being challenged by great leaders. Coach Coughlin is a great leader. He will challenge you as a head coach and that’s what I thrive for. For myself, personally, it’s very easy as a head coach, I can bounce things off of him. He has a lot more experience than me. We both have the same vision. We just want to win.”
Give Marrone credit. He said all the right things. He knows Coughlin is the boss.
But notice the comment about Coughlin challenging him as a head coach. And that he bounces things off Coughlin.
What happens when Coughlin wants to do one thing and Marrone wants to do another? Will Coughlin second-guess Marrone at times? You know he will.
And is Coughlin suited for the GM role? In his first stint, he got the team in massive salary-cap trouble with his free spending. This time, he didn’t bring in any competition for Blake Bortles. And he traded for tackle Brandon Albert, who almost immediately retired.
If the team wins right out of the gate, things could work. But what happens if the Jaguars struggle? This is still a team that has won just one playoff game since 1999.
Does the Coughlin style work when he’s not the head coach? I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t. He had more success with the Giants when he wasn’t running the show.