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Winding Down? Not Tom Coughlin; Q&A With The New York Giants Head Coach

Mr. P

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Tom Coughlin left the Jacksonville Jaguars upon his dismissal as head coach after the 2002 season, but the continued existence of his foundation means his impact on the First Coast will never be a thing of the past.


The Jay Fund is named after former Boston College player Jay McGillis, who died of leukemia in 1993 during Coughlin's tenure there. It benefits families with cancer-stricken children in the Jacksonville area by providing various forms of financial support, allowing them to focus on caring for children dealing with life-and-death issues.


Coughlin, the New York Giants coach who led his team to a Super Bowl title in the 2007 season, was in town the past three days for his annual celebrity auction/dinner and golf tournament at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course. He sat down with The Times-Union's Gene Frenette to discuss the Jay Fund, the Giants' disastrous end to the 2009 season, how long he intends to keep coaching and other topics:


What are the pertinent fundraising numbers about the Jay Fund and what do they reveal about this charity's impact on Jacksonville?


We've helped 4,000-plus families and given out almost $3 million. Normally, our gifts per year have averaged out to be around $300,000. In 2009, it was $480,000. That indicates to you the number of children with cancer or leukemia is rising. You have more families that are unemployed. They have obvious hardship, with the economy the way it is. More people are in need and looking for help. It was an outstanding celebrity dinner [sunday night], well over 400 attended. The auction alone, I hope, [raised] between $90,000 and $100,000. It¹ll be a while before we know what the other numbers are. What these numbers say is that the great people of greater Jacksonville have embraced our objective. The people have decided that this is a major, major cause. We¹ve done a great job of holding our expenses down and doing the best we can to pass whatever money we raise directly to those families.


Has your annual fundraising target had to be adjusted because of the economy and rising cancer patients?


I can see we need $500,000 every year to do what we want to do, so we¹ve got some work to do in terms of raising more money.




Give an example of how your system of financial assistance might help a particular family in need.


The way it works, there's no major one-time payment to anybody. It might be $2,000 at a time, but more than likely, it's [paying] three mortgage payments, grocery bills for a month, car payments, electricity bills. Those are the type of things we do.


You previously stated you hoped to raise $5 million for a Jay Fund endowment. Has that goal been reached?


That's a separate entity. We've done that. The intention was to make sure the Jay Fund continued in perpetuity. The goal was $5 million. We've raised $4.7 million of that, but that is set aside. We want to grow that and use it for the purpose that was intended. When people graciously agreed to help us with this endowment, they understood completely it was all going to be set aside and separate [from Jay Fund auction/golf tournament fundraisers].


Switching to football, you've got two years left on your contract [four-year, $21 million deal signed in 2008] and you're going to 64 years old in August. If things go your way in the 2010 season and the Giants were to offer you an extension, would you be interested in coaching beyond 2011?


I've not really spent a lot of time thinking about that. I'd say right now I would be. I'd entertain that. Thank God, I'm in good health. I'm excited. I am upset about last year, so the juices are flowing pretty solid. At this point and time, I'm certainly not going to say I won't coach beyond age 65.


You've experienced one of the NFL¹s biggest roller-coaster rides with the Giants over the last six years. Has the grind in New York been more taxing for you than the eight years you spent coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars?


I don't think so because I look at it on a yearly basis. It's year-by-year to me. It's what my goals and my aspirations are. They're not imposed on me from anything from the outside. Someone from the outside writing that they're displeased with what they see is not necessarily going to have an effect on me. I know what I want. I know what I'm looking for. I do my own evaluating. Therefore, I'd say it's all based on the year, the team, and what I think the chances are for that team to succeed.


In 1997, you told me that your ideal coaching scenario would be to stay on the NFL sidelines "about 12 years and win at least a couple Super Bowls." You've won one Super Bowl with the Giants and been to two AFC championship games with the Jaguars. Would one more Super Bowl ring be satisfying enough for you to close out your career?


That's a good question. I don't like the word satisfaction, never have. I don't think I'll be satisfied with anything really, to be honest. Every year that you enter this business and this game, the goal is the Super Bowl. That's what my goal is. We have a good football team; we didn't play well last year. We gave up points we shouldn't have given up. We didn't respond well to that. We had a couple injuries, which everybody has, and we didn't respond well to that, either. We didn't plug the holes. Our goal is to be the very best that we can be, and if we do that, I think we'll put ourselves in position to compete for a Super Bowl title. That's what I¹m interested in. Would that be enough? I don't know; I'm not sure. I feel good, thank God. Quite frankly, I've always been one that never envisioned myself as not jumping up first thing in the morning and not having some place to go or something to do. That's always been very much in my mind. I don't know what I'd do with myself. I don't think that's healthy. That being said, right now, we take it one day and one year at a time in this business. At the end of this year, we'll evaluate it again.


The way the 2009 season, finishing 8-8 after a 5-0 start, was that the biggest disappointment of your coaching career or do you view all playoff-absent seasons the same?


I try to deal with the present. Yeah, I'm very, very disappointed, but I don't compare it to other years. The 5-0 start, I think we had some weaknesses that were being hidden. And when they were exposed, they were exposed, so it's not as if we didn't think they were there. It has been a huge source of motivation for this year. It was a combination of things. We didn't put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Our secondary play was not very good, gave up a lot of big plays from the safety position. Too many big-play balls that had a chance to be defended. But we didn't help the secondary out either. The pressure package was not very effective. We didn't get to the quarterback to the extent that we had in the past. On the other side, we didn't run the ball as well. We started out running the ball well, but we got away from some of those stats. One of the good things is [quarterback] Eli Manning continues to improve on his numbers, which are better than they've ever been.


Only two players are left on the Jaguars that were signed or drafted during your time here, including quarterback David Garrard. What did you and your scouts see in him back in 2002 and did you feel he could be more than just a backup?


Definitely, you don't draft anybody that you don't think can be a starter. In the division we were in, having to play against teams that had very good quarterbacks, who combined the ability to throw the football and pull it down and run with it, we felt in the division that David would give us that aspect of quarterback play.


You recently signed Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner, a Bolles School graduate, as an undrafted free agent. What did you see in him, if anything, beyond being a developmental quarterback?


We thought he handled himself very well. He handled the huddle well, he studied and was serious about his work. He did display a strong arm and an outstanding ability to learn, to pick things up very fast. He was obviously very smart. It wasn't a sophisticated glimpse of our offense that we gave him. But nonetheless, we gave it to the other quarterbacks that participated as well. We just thought he had proven himself, from his outstanding collegiate career, his poise, his arm strength, his mobility, we liked what we saw. We were very impressed.


You and your wife, Judy, have a home at the beach and intend to retire there whenever the time comes. Can you truly see yourself living a life without being in football? When you retire, can you honestly say you won't pull a Joe Gibbs or Bill Walsh and go back to coaching if an opportunity presented itself?


No, I can't say that. I don't even know if I'd use that word [retire]. There'll be some capacity, some part of the game that I'll be involved in. What that might be, I don't know.



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