Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin said the team was not tough in the last few years, even with an emphasis on grit from former head coach Gus Bradley. What’s the difference anyway?
Tom Coughlin’s emphasis on toughness during his pre-Combine presser has the Jacksonville Jaguars world buzzing.
NFL.com’s Marc Sessler says, “His primary takeaway? This year’s club needs to learn how to drop the hammer.”
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union made it his primary talking point as well, saying, “In a 21-minute session Friday at EverBank Field dominated by clipped-on-purpose answers, Tom Coughlin elaborated on at least one topic. The Jaguars need to get tougher in 2017.”
Matt Hoffman of the good folks at Big Cat Country made “The Jaguars are soft” his first talking point post-presser, elaborating:
"It was blatantly clear that Tom Coughlin believes that the prior mindset around the Jaguars was too soft. Coughlin touched on both mental and physical toughness, having more accountability, and just being a lot more hard-pressing in general"
It was clear that, minus getting a fullback, the big talking point from Coughlin’s press conference was that the Jaguars were anything but tough in recent years and that he intends to make this team tougher. “This league can benefit from more of (a tough) attitude. This team can,” Coughlin emphasized during his press conference.
Curiously, this is being embraced wholesale by everyone across Jags fandom. It isn’t curious because it isn’t true (it is, the lack of resiliency was downright shameful in 2016) but because it is almost exactly the same kind of coach-speak type thing that former head coach Gus Bradley began preaching.
The difference is that when Bradley preached it, he called it “grit.”
Back in 2015, ESPN’s Michael DiRocco headlined that “Jaguars coach Gus Bradley rips players, says team needs more grit.” DiRocco highlights that Bradley’s 29th loss may have been the tipping point. From that point, Bradley harped on grit.
It was embraced. Big Cat Country’s Hoffman highlighted the grit the Jags showed in rushing for 200 yards in 2016. 2015’s first half showed grit per DiRocco. Defensive captain Paul Posluszny got into the action, saying the team had grit.
Grit was then what toughness is now. The team and those following the team embraced it. There was a mentality shift produced by talking about grit and how the team needed to overcome rather than simply “get better” which was what Bradley promoted the seasons before 2015.
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What separates Coughlin’s toughness from Bradley’s grit? Accountability.
Under Bradley there was little to no accountability. Players could take snaps off and under-performance was accepted so long as ambiguously defined “progress” was being shown. One of the few acts of actual discipline came in mistakenly benching then-best cornerback Davon House after DeAndre Hopkins beat him over the stretch the game before.
With Coughlin, the Jaguars are being held accountable. Kelvin Beachum‘s option was not taken after he led the team in accepted penalties. Receiving tight end Julius Thomas is being shipped to the Miami Dolphins for a seventh round draft pick because he can’t block and doesn’t commit to every down.
Only two months into 2017 and the Jaguars are already being held accountable in ways that Bradley’s talks on grit never could. Players that aren’t tough simply are not going to be a part of the team moving forward. There is no place on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster for a player who cannot display the requisite toughness to persevere and improve.
Accountability is often bandied about as a buzzword in NFL circles. Rarely is it actually enforced. When talking about toughness with the Jaguars going forward, it’s important to keep this in mind. What Coughlin and the Jaguars are doing is not just beginning a new culture and vision of toughness but actually holding the team accountable to that vision.