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FL Today: Will N.Y. get same Coughlin?


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Will N.Y. get same Coughlin?


Eight years ago, when the Jacksonville Jaguars acquired Leon Searcy in an offseason free agency move, The Sporting News commissioned me to write a story on Searcy and Tony Boselli and how the two All-Pro offensive tackles could perhaps propel the Jags into the Super Bowl.

I talked to Searcy, and had a pleasant conversation. Then with Boselli, with the same result. Then Coughlin. It was a phone interview, and Coughlin answered questions fine and all. But then I made the mistake of mentioning that he and Boselli live in the same neighborhood, just houses away from each other.

I could feel Coughlin stiffen on the other end of the phone.

"What are you trying to get at?" he demanded.

"Nothing really," I stammered.

All I was fishing for was maybe an anecdote that would provide insight into Boselli. I told Coughlin that maybe because of the close proximity of their homes they might drive into work together on occasion. Perhaps they did some things socially.

But each query prodded Coughlin like a jolt of electricity.

"No, no. Nothing like that," he intoned. "I was told you would be asking football questions."

I fumbled through an apology and returned to questions that went back between the lines.

The next day, I got a call from the Jaguars' media relations guy, who is one of the good guys in the business. I could tell he was embarrassed, but it was clear he was under orders from Coughlin to phone me.

"Coach Coughlin wanted me to emphasize to you that he treats all his players the same way, and that just because he lives close to Tony Boselli he doesn't treat him any differently, nor does he have an off-the-field relationship with him."

I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Heaven forbid Tom Coughlin could come across as a human being.

Yeah, I laughed then. And I'm prepared to laugh again, waiting to see how Coughlin is going to mesh with the New York media now that he is the new head coach of the New York Giants.

It was downright comical last week to see Coughlin reading from a prepared statement during his first news conference as the Giants' coach, stiffer than a petrified piece of wood.

Make no mistake, Coughlin is a top-drawer football coach, and maybe his drill sergeant style is just what the Giants need. In a society ever more lax with its mores and morals, maybe it's increased discipline we all need. Remember, one of the chief criticisms that Washington Redskins players had about Steve Spurrier was that he wasn't disciplined enough with them.

But there is discipline and then there is the world Tom Coughlin lives in.

"Discipline is as vital to an athlete as the air he breathes," he said last week.


Coughlin does claim to have softened a bit. But you want to know what he means by that? Get this: He will now allow his assistant coaches to wear sunglasses during practice. Goodness, can the end of civilization be far off?

Rest assured, not much else will be different with Coughlin, who, not surprisingly, says his favorite movie is "Patton." When New York's reporters asked him if he's changed, Coughlin replied: "I'm older. That's about it."

Yes, it is. Most of his rules will remain the same. Lest we forget, this is a guy who once fined two Jags players $500 for being 30 minutes late to a team meeting because they were in a car accident on the way to the team hotel. Later that night, both players were taken to the hospital. The fine stood.

Like it was when he coached at Boston College and Jacksonville, Coughlin will require that Giants players have both feet on the floor and sit up straight during team meetings.

"I don't know how a guy who's slouching can pay attention to what's going on," he told reporters.

He also had some other interesting things to say.

When asked about players on injured reserve -- the Giants had as many as 11 last season -- Coughlin commented, "The number of IRs and those kinds of things, which is a cancer, let's face it, is something that has to be corrected. It is a mental thing, I believe, as much as anything else."

Cartilage damage. Broken bone. Torn tendon. Hey, it's all in your head.

It'll be interesting.

And then, of course, there is the New York media. When a cell phone rang during his first news conference, Coughlin cracked with a rare display of humor, "That's a big fine right there." But when other cell phones rang, mostly from the media, Coughlin not only ignored them, but did so with a noticeable a scowl on his face.

At Jaguars practices, Coughlin made reporters stand in a chalked off area that we media members affectionately called the penalty box.

He was a treat.

He was also a great coach, leading the Jaguars to a 14-2 record in 1999, their fifth year as a franchise.

Now he's in New York, ready to take a big bite on the Big Apple.

When they asked him if he thinks he is about to send the entire Giants' organization into shock, Tom Coughlin didn't hesitate with his answer.

"I hope so," he said.

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