Two straight losing seasons following an appearance in the AFC Championship game didn’t help Coughlin’s case, either. But Jaguars owner Shad Khan was at least going to let Coughlin finish out the season and leave with his head held high.
That all changed this past week, when the Jaguars suffered public humiliation with the news that an independent arbitrator sided with the NFL Players Association in a grievance against the team for improperly and excessively fining many Jaguars players for not participating in voluntary offseason activities.
Specifically, the Jaguars fined players for missing “mandatory” offseason rehab appointments with a club trainer or physician, which is expressly prohibited by the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. One player, now-Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler, was fined 25 times for more than $700,000 for missing appointments.
And Fowler was just one example of Coughlin’s blatant overreach. Leonard Fournette had a $99,000 fine rescinded for sitting on the bench while inactive in last year’s Week 17 game. Defensive end Dawuane Smoot was fined $25,000 for oversleeping and missing a breakfast meeting before a London game. Cornerback A.J. Bouye was fined $10,000 for missing a yoga session.
In a stern rebuke, the NFLPA stated that in the last two years more than 25 percent of all grievances filed by players against their teams have been filed by Jaguars players, and warned players about signing with Jacksonville in free agency.
“This is just one of the many grievances we had to file to protect our players from the Jaguars’ actions,” the NFLPA said. “It should be noted that the Jaguars players continue to be at odds with Jaguars management over their rights under the CBA far more than players on other clubs . . . You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”
Khan was going to fire Coughlin after the season, but this embarrassing episode, and the damage it could do to the Jaguars’ free agency plans, was enough. Khan promptly fired Coughlin on Wednesday, while keeping coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell (for now).
“I determined earlier this fall that making this move at the conclusion of the 2019 season would be in everyone’s best interests, but in recent days I reconsidered and decided to make this change immediately,” Khan said in a statement.
The NFL under the CBA adopted in 2011 is a lot different from the NFL of the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, when Coughlin won multiple Super Bowls with the Giants and also built the Jaguars from the ground up. Player safety and voluntary offseason workouts were a major component of this CBA, and today’s players know their rights.
It’s one thing for Coughlin to turn back the clocks five minutes, or remove the ping-pong tables from the locker room, or make training camp practices more physical (though these bordered on breaking the rules, too).
But Coughlin had utter disdain for the word “voluntary,” blatantly ignored the NFL’s rules almost from the moment he was hired, and unnecessarily antagonized his players.
In 2017, Jaguars players groused when they were required to return to the team in March for mandatory physicals, which violated the league’s offseason rules. Coughlin also tried to launch the team’s offseason program two weeks earlier than allowed but was rebuffed by the NFL. And that year Coughlin also announced that he would personally oversee offseason workouts in the weight room, even though only trainers and medical staff were supposed to be present.
In 2019, Coughlin publicly chastised cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith for not attending voluntary offseason workouts, which again drew admonishment from the NFL and the union.
Now come the reports of Coughlin excessively fining players and overreaching his boundaries. It certainly paints Fowler and Ramsey, two players who were eventually traded because of what was portrayed as selfish behavior, in a new light.
“I know what works best for me as a player, and they didn’t want to hear that,” Bouye said via the Florida Times-Union. “You never really know what you’re going to get fined for until it happens. People laugh because it doesn’t happen anywhere else. They just laugh at us when it happens.
“I look at some of the rookies, especially imagining an undrafted guy who gets fined. He’s going to get his whole game check taken away. It’s tough like that. I know in 2017 everybody was fined. It was just anything we didn’t agree with.”
The Jaguars began immediately erasing Coughlin’s presence this past week. One of the first moves — pushing the clocks in the building back ahead five minutes to the correct time.
“It threw me off when I first got here [this morning],” defensive tackle Abry Jones said via the Times-Union.
Coughlin, 73, is likely to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. He is one of the great NFL coaches of the last 25 years, and his two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots will go down as among the biggest upsets in NFL history. And he still wants to coach or be involved with a team.
“The only thing I would say is there is plenty of football left in Tom Coughlin,” Coughlin’s agent, Sandy Montag, told ESPN.
But it’s hard to see why a team would want Coughlin after the fiasco of his tenure in Jacksonville. Coughlin’s tough-guy act, and refusal to adhere to the rules, simply doesn’t play in today’s NFL.
A KICK IN THE PANTS
Off-target FGs hurting Titans
That Titans kicker Ryan Succop had a 45-yard field goal blocked last week against Houston isn’t big news. But the Titans lost the game by 3 points to put a sizable dent in their playoff hopes, and continued their season of historically poor kicking.
The Titans are just 8 for 18 on field goal attempts, for a success rate of 44.4 percent. It would be the worst field goal percentage in 36 years, when the 1983 Patriots converted just 40.9 percent (9 of 22), and it would mark the first time since the 1987 Vikings that a team finished below 50 percent. The lowest success rate this decade is the 2012 Packers at 63.6 percent.
The Titans placed Succop on injured reserve the day after the game, and pulled Greg Joseph from the Panthers’ practice squad to be their fourth kicker of the year. Cairo Santos started the season and went 4 for 9 in five games, Cody Parkey went 3 for 3 in three games, and Succop, who has been battling an injury all year, went just 1 for 6 in his six games.
The 8-6 Titans remain on the outside of the playoff picture, and their kicking woes cost them not only last week against Houston, but also in a Week 5 loss to Buffalo, when they missed all four field goal attempts in a 14-7 loss.
The Titans aren’t the only team with kicking issues, though. The league-wide success rate of 80.9 percent this year is the lowest since 2004, and is down significantly from 84.7 percent last year.
And the Patriots are struggling since Stephen Gostkowski hit injured reserve after Week 4. The Patriots are 21st in field goal percentage at 76.7 percent (23 of 30), the second-lowest in Bill Belichick’s 20 years in New England (73.5 percent in 2003).
The Patriots and Giants are the only teams this year not to have attempted a 50-yard field goal. The only time the Patriots did this under Belichick was in 2007.
Brady’s numbers far from the norm
A few Patriots-related notes:
Not to keep kicking Tom Brady while he is down, but his stats have been shockingly poor of late. Between Week 7 and Week 16 — a length of time that entails the Patriots’ last eight games — Brady is last among 26 qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage (56.3) and yards per attempt (5.64), and third-worst in passer rating (78.7), ahead of only Carolina’s Kyle Allen (70.9) and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton (66.0).
Football is, of course, a team game, and Brady’s poor numbers have a lot to do with his lack of weapons, a shaky offensive line, and a recent elbow injury. But we’re not used to seeing Brady’s numbers nosedive this sharply.
Dont’a Hightower earned a $500,000 incentive and Matthew Slater $100,000 for being selected to the Pro Bowl on the initial ballot. But Jamie Collins and Shaq Mason each missed out on $500,000 bonuses, and they still won’t earn them if they are named Pro Bowl replacements, per the terms of their contracts. Collins and Mason also have $500,000 bonuses for earning first-team All-Pro that they likely won’t achieve, either.
Collins has still done fairly well for himself this year, though. He signed a one-year deal this offseason with only $250,000 guaranteed, but will likely earn $3 million out of a maximum of $5 million. He earned $2 million in salary, offseason bonuses, and per-game roster bonuses. And Collins is likely to earn $1 million of $2 million in playing-time incentives: He already has achieved $750,000 in incentives for playing in 50, 60, and 70 percent of snaps this year (currently 79.8 percent), and Collins is right on the cusp of earning another $250,000 for playing in 80 percent. He likely won’t earn $1 million in bonuses for 91 and 95 percent of snaps, though.
Julian Edelman, meanwhile, doesn’t have to worry about his production in the final two games. With 92 catches, Edelman already has earned two $500,000 incentives by surpassing 80 and 90 catches.
Three former Patriots were named to the Pro Bowl: Raiders right tackle Trent Brown, Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, and Bears special teams ace Cordarrelle Patterson. And Ravens fullback/defensive tackle Patrick Ricard, a Spencer, Mass. native who played collegiately at Maine, also got a Pro Bowl nod.
I was surprised, but not surprised, to see Robert Kraft left off the list of finalists for the “contributor” group for the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. The Hall changed its rules for next year to enshrine a gigantic class — the five regular enshrinees, plus two coaches, three contributors, and 10 senior players — and Kraft, who has been close to earning the nod in recent years, seemed like a shoo-in, especially since Jerry Jones got the honor a few years ago.
But I know several voters were hesitant to honor Kraft so soon after his legal issue in Florida last January, and the Patriots’ latest videotaping scandal couldn’t have helped his cause, either. Kraft will eventually get in, but it seems like the voters want his negative press to cool off before honoring him.
Not that I have a vote, but the contributors I would enshrine next year are former Giants GM George Young, NFL Films founder Steve Sabol, and former Patriots GM Bucko Kilroy, a star player in the 1940s who later created many of the league’s scouting services and the NFL Combine. But former commissioner Paul Tagliabue will also get strong consideration.
Ever wonder what kind of rules the Patriots have for their players on the road? Last weekend in Cincinnati, players had a curfew of 10:30 p.m., and had to check in with running backs coach Ivan Fears. A mandatory breakfast began at 8 a.m., with players again having to check in with Fears. Players also get mandatory treatment at this time, while the team’s offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators hold a meeting.
The early buses departed for the stadium at 9:45 a.m., with rookies and medical staff required to be on them. The late buses departed at 10:15 a.m.
The Lions are retaining coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn for next year but were way too transparent with the fans in announcing the decision. Owner Martha Ford stated in an open letter to fans that “our expectation is for the Lions to be a playoff contender in 2020.” The Lions then contradicted themselves, telling fans that they believe in “a long-term plan” and “stability in leadership,” but that they are only committed to “year three of Coach Patricia’s plan.” By putting Patricia and Quinn on the hot seat, the Lions have now ensured that Patricia and Quinn will rip up any long-term planning and will go all-in on 2020. And free agents aren’t dumb — many will be hesitant to sign with Detroit, knowing that the Lions may blow it all up in a year. The Lions weren’t wrong to keep Patricia and Quinn, but they should have said as little publicly as possible . . . Don’t understand why the Giants are going back to rookie quarterback
Daniel Jones on Sunday after he missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Jones already has gotten plenty of work this year — 370 pass attempts in 11 games (10 starts) — and the last thing Jones and the Giants need is for him to get injured over these final two meaningless games, which would potentially ruin his offseason. I would put him in bubble wrap for the final two games and let Eli Manning get the sendoff he deserves . . . Former agent and current CBS Sports salary cap analyst Joel Corry pegs the exclusive franchise tag for quarterbacks at around $33.3 million, which will likely be the starting point for Dak Prescott’s new contract (or he’ll simply get the tag) . . . Jameis Winston is six interceptions shy of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history in the 30-30 club — touchdowns and interceptions (he already has 30 TD passes). The Packers’ Lynn Dickey had 32 TD passes and 29 interceptions in 1983 . . . Sunday’s Bengals-Dolphins game actually has some importance — the Bengals can lock up the No. 1 draft pick (and the rights to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow) with a loss. The Dolphins, meanwhile, thought they’d have a treasure trove of top-10 picks next year after trading
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil. The Dolphins currently own the No. 3 pick, but their pick from Pittsburgh is currently No. 22, and the Houston pick is No. 23. And Fitzpatrick and Tunsil were both named to the Pro Bowl.