JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In case you were wondering, no, Tom Coughlin is not what you would describe as a man at peace.
Coughlin is here, running the Jacksonville Jaguars -- but not as the head coach he was for the first eight years of their existence before he moved on to coach the New York Giants for 12 years, winning two Super Bowls. No, Coughlin's title here is executive vice president of football operations. The coach is Doug Marrone. But some of the players do refer to "Coach Marrone and Coach Coughlin" when talking about the brain trust, and Coughlin is a definite presence at practice, the way he always has been.
"I'm not going to adjust who I am or how I go about it," Coughlin said in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning. "I walk the practice fields and I say what I want to say, even to the head coach. 'I don't like this, I like this.' And it's a constant critique. And he's been very welcoming."
Marrone wouldn't seem to have much choice, but the two are similar enough that he's finding a way to work with Coughlin over his shoulder. A few things remain to be seen -- such as how it'll work during the season when games are won and lost and how Coughlin will handle watching from the press box. But after not being around a team last season following his January 2016 parting with the Giants, Coughlin was eager to get back to the franchise he helped build from the ground up in the 1990s. The logistics of his new role remain a work in progress.
"It's going to be interesting," Coughlin said. "Fortunately for me, the experience to date with Doug and [general manager Dave Caldwell] has been very good. We work together on all things. Doug is very much interested in what I think about everything. But the actual games and the competitiveness and not being able to necessarily, in a timely manner, rely on those experiences is going to be interesting. Because I really do feel that the idea of sharing and being a part of it and having the opportunity to develop the relationships is a very important thing for me. And I can still have some of that, but it's going to be different, obviously."
You can hear the various parts of Coughlin's football soul sparring with each other. He knows he's not the coach, but he knows part of him is going to have a very hard time with that. He feels the need to stand over the coach's shoulder and critique, but he knows he'd hate it if someone had done that to him while he was coaching.
"Oh yeah, I understand that," he said. "The best example I give is: I was a play-caller for a lot of years, and I hated people bugging me about that. So I'm aware of that part of it. And I know. I know how much goes into it. And I know there'll be a time and a place to discuss a lot of things, and it'll be up to me to do the best job I can to help correct, to institute some of my thoughts, but at the right time. A guy loses a ballgame, it ain't a great time. You'd better give him some time."
Perpetually antsy and energetic, still at the facility at 5 a.m. every day for those famous morning workouts, Coughlin seems to admit he isn't all the way sure how that part will work. He just knows he wants it to.
Told he doesn't sound like a guy who has left coaching behind, he said, "Well, in my mind, I haven't, for sure. I want to make sure that everything that I can call upon to help is there."
But pressed directly on whether he envisions ever coaching again, he said this:
"No, I don't. I would like to see this franchise win again. That's really what I would like to do. I want this franchise to be successful. I want it to be successful here in Jacksonville. Because in the first place, one of the real attractions for me, as I looked at what Coach [Tom] Landry did in Dallas, was the historical opportunity that I had to start a franchise. So when you start something, and particularly the first five years were a great ride, until salary-cap woes and even the last year here for me, I think we lost five games by 12 points ... but the idea that what we started here could pick up momentum again while I'm involved in it, that's important to me."
So he has brought all of his rules and his discipline and his slogans and signs and old-style Coughlin hardness with him. Veteran linebacker Telvin Smith said he was taken aback by the rule that he couldn't wear a tinted visor in practice. Wide receiver Allen Robinson said the required practice uniform of "white sleeves, black cleats, black socks, things like that, some of the small things, that was a bit shocking to me." Cornerback A.J. Bouye joined the long line of Coughlin players who have smiled at the five-minutes-early rule.
"You have to be five minutes early, but they also changed the clocks back five minutes early, so you're really going earlier than what's expected and you always feel like you're in a rush," Bouye said. "But I'm used to it now."
And the veterans on the team don't seem to mind, since they get what Coughlin is doing.
"Obviously, it's a more strict system that he's bringing in," Smith said. "But if this team wants to be great, we've got to do the little things. And I think that's all that he's trying to force us to realize, and that's what we're steadily growing and learning to do: Take care of the little things. Being five minutes early. Making sure we eat. Make sure you're holding guys accountable. Those things are going to make us a great team."
There is still a long way to go here, and they know it. The Jaguars haven't won more than five games in a season since 2010. They haven't made the playoffs since 2007.
"Five straight padded days [of practice] this week," Coughlin said with pride but also a gravity that indicates how much work needs to be done here.
"The culture of understanding what it takes to win? For a team that has not won anything in five years? It's not easy. It's not an easy thing," Coughlin said. "So practices are 2½ hours long. They're fully padded. They'll be in the heat. There's a lot of contact. You work your way into the understanding that nothing good has ever been accomplished without sacrifice -- sacrifice, self-denial and discipline, the discipline that goes with it."
Funny, though. It sounds as if Coughlin knows he's going to have to apply those principles to himself as he adjusts to the new and unfamiliar role of leader but not coach. And don't think his year off helped. He spent Sundays and Monday nights in the NFL's command center watching Dean Blandino and Al Riveron manage the replay system and communicate with officials on the field at various sites during reviews.
"I enjoyed the part where Dean or Al, whenever there was a situation, they would run over and put the headset on and talk to the referee," Coughlin said. "And I would listen, and they would get off and I would say, 'You know, I don't think that was right. I think he had one foot in,' and all that kind of stuff. But they were great because they would listen and we might talk about it, maybe not then, but another time. I did like that."
One wonders if Blandino and Riveron felt the same way, or if Marrone will feel the same way if Coughlin does the same thing in their new arrangement. Coughlin is trying. In his own 70-year-old, control-enthusiast way, he's trying. But you don't have to talk to him for long to see that his life's work is still pulling at him.
"The game itself ... there's nothing like developing a team, getting a team to the point where they start believing in each other and being able to go through the process in terms of making those key decisions that help you win," Coughlin said. "There's nothing like that for reinforcement, for bonding and for all those good things. And there'll be some experiences that I'll have to have that are not by having total hands-on. And that will be different."
"Different" isn't Coughlin's favorite thing. But he's adjusting. He's getting used to it. He's working his way there. Hey, isn't that what training camp is for anyway?