‘Our hearts are broken’: Judy Coughlin, wife of former Jaguars head coach, dies after battling brain disease

Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and executive Tom Coughlin with wife Judy Coughlin who died Wednesday. (Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Judy Coughlin, the wife of former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and team executive Tom Coughlin, died Wednesday after battling an incurable brain disease, the family announced.

She was 77.

“Judy was a remarkable woman in every way. She lived a life filled with love and unselfishly gave her heart and soul to others,” the Coughlin family said in a statement. “Judy made you feel like an old friend from the first hug to the last. She was a mother to all on and off the field.”

Tom Coughlin revealed in a powerful guest column in the New York Times last year that Judy was suffering from the disease and that nothing he had ever experienced could have prepared him for that battle.

The first coach in Jaguars franchise history and a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach with the Giants said that Judy was suffering from an incurable brain disease that has her “trapped inside a body that will not allow her to be the person she was.”

Coughlin said that he made the choice to go public with her diagnosis for a couple of reasons. He was asked about Judy often by people who used to see her with him or out at events. Judy slowly faded from visibility at events she never would have missed before. And Coughlin said that he wanted to be a voice for primary caregivers who were struggling just like he was.

Coughlin wrote that his family found out in 2020 that she was suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a brain disorder that slowly takes away a person’s ability to walk, talk, focus their eyes and control body movements.

Coughlin wrote last year that watching Judy battle the disease has been soul-crushing for him and the entire family.

“For everyone who knew and loved Judy, the enormity of her absence cannot be put into words, but the immense kindness she showed to others will always endure. Our hearts are broken, but we know she is free from suffering and at peace with our Lord,” the family statement released Wednesday reads.

The Jaguars released a statement about Judy Coughlin’s passing, saying “the hearts of the Jaguars faithful are heavy today.”

The Jaguars acknowledged that Judy Coughlin “helped lay the foundation” for Jacksonville’s NFL team alongside her husband more than 25 years ago.

When Tom Coughlin became the team’s first coach in 1995, and then led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances in his first five seasons, Judy Coughlin was by his side.

She also supported the establishment of the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund to support families with children battling cancer. In more than 25 years, the Jay Fund has helped over 5,000 families and given away over $16 million in grants helping thousands of families in Northeast Florida and the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area.

“It was a privilege for me to know Judy Coughlin, if only for a short while,” said Jaguars Owner Shad Khan. “Judy was everything I had been told to expect when her husband Tom returned to the Jaguars in 2017 – kind, energetic, optimistic and an inspiration. I personally saw the love and support Tom had for Judy, so I am saddened for Tom, his family and everyone who was positively impacted by Judy here in Jacksonville and beyond. Judy was truly a force for good and will be deeply missed by all.”

In the team statement, the Jaguars organization encouraged fans to show support for Coughlin by learning more about the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which he and Judy have championed so tirelessly.

“May Judy’s tireless commitment to caring for children and families affected by cancer continue to inspire us all,” the team wrote.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also expressed his condolences on social media:


About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.