JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the Jaguars welcomed home Tom Coughlin and officially introduced Doug Marrone as the team's new head coach, they emphasized the goal for the team's leadership -- old and new -- is putting a winning team on the field – starting now.
Team owner Shad Khan introduced Coughlin at Thursday's news conference by saying "their couldn't possibly be anyone better to accept the job" of vice president of football operations.
"I have a vested interest in this team," Coughlin said. "I want to see this team succeed."
At 70 years old, the fire is still there for Coughlin.
“As long as I can contribute at the highest level, I want to do it. If and when that comes that I don't think I'm able to do that anymore, then that will be the deciding factor. But at 55 years old, there's a lot of time to go,” Coughlin joked.
Despite the humor, Coughlin made it clear that he means business. He said being back inside the stadium brought back feelings of his first stint in Jacksonville and that at this point in his career, this is exactly the role he wanted.
"Having come full circle and having an opportunity right now, at this particular time in my career, to have an impact on a team, to see that team again rise to the position of winning the division, being in the playoffs, that would be most meaningful to me," Coughlin said.
Coughlin, who led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances in his first five years, won two Super Bowls in 12 seasons with the New York Giants and will have final say in the NFL draft and in free agency. General manager Dave Caldwell has been the primary decision maker in all personnel moves the last four years.
"It's not about me. It's not about any one individual," Coughlin said. "It's about team."
But bringing back the franchise’s original head coach in his new role has already been a boost for the fans. Team president Mark Lamping said he ran into a fan while leaving EverBank Field last night who said he had just bought season tickets because the team had brought Coughlin back.
“The excitement that really matters is the excitement our fans get when this team wins,” Lamping said. “Hopefully the announcements today get us closer to giving our fans the type of product on the field that they have missed for too long.”
Both Coughlin and Marrone pointedly said that despite struggles last season, Blake Bortles will be the Jaguars' quarterback going forward.
Marrone replaces Gus Bradley, who was fired in late November after going 14-48 in three-plus seasons. The Jaguars (3-13) also gave Caldwell a two-year contract extension. So Marrone, Coughlin and Caldwell are now signed through 2019, giving the new regime a three-year window to, at the very least, make Jacksonville relevant in the AFC South.
"I have confidence that one day soon we'll look back on today's news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season," Khan said in a statement Monday night. "The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join Dave and Doug, there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today."
Marrone and Caldwell will report to Coughlin, meaning Jacksonville's first coach is now in charge and will have final say in personnel decisions.
Marrone is the fifth head coach in franchise history, following Coughlin (1995-2002), Jack Del Rio (2003-11), Mike Mularkey (2012) and Bradley (2013-16).
"I think Doug has earned the respect of the offensive players, and I'm excited for him to get this opportunity and the direction of this team," Bortles told The Associated Press in a text message.
Khan, who hired Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry International to help with the search, also interviewed Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin for the head coaching job.
He ended up keeping Marrone, who served as Jacksonville's interim coach for the final two games. The Jaguars won one and blew a late lead in the season finale at Indianapolis. Players seemed to rally around him, but after the loss to the Colts, rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey said a "complete flip will serve us good."
Marrone and Coughlin could provide that. They surely will bring a different vibe, a much more disciplined approach that will put more emphasis on winning games than Bradley did.
"I can see what they're doing," veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis told the AP. "These are good moves for a young team, a team that needs to be held to a certain standard. Marrone's a good man. He's good for the culture.
"It's not like we're bringing in a brand new coach and he's going to wipe the face of the earth of everything we've built."
Marrone likely will keep offensive coordinator Nate Hackett, providing some stability for the inconsistent Bortles. The 2014 first-round draft pick has had three play callers in three seasons.
Marrone has been Jacksonville's assistant head coach/offensive line coach since January 2015. He joined the team after two seasons as Buffalo's head coach. He guided the Bills to a 15-17 record before opting out of his contract because of uncertainty over potential organizational changes.
The Bills went 9-7 in Marrone's second season in 2014, the franchise's only winning record since 2004.
Coughlin led the Jaguars to a 68-60 record in eight seasons. Coughlin resigned last January after a dozen years with the Giants, but made it clear he wanted to return to the NFL. He served as a senior adviser to the league's Football Operations Department this season.
"He's got so much experience on myself or on any coach that we have in this building and he's a great individual, so I think you can always learn from people," Caldwell said after Bradley was fired. "There's always a place for knowledge."