Jacksonville Jaguars VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin held a press conference on Friday of last week, his first meeting with the press since he was introduced at his new position. It was only Coughlin who fielded questions and as expected, he didn't really give many specific or revealing answers. Coughlin did leave some interesting nuggets out there however when asked about certain things, including going off on a bit of a tangent that the previous teams lacked some toughness.
Questioning a players toughness is a very deep cut, because it's a physical game and requires some innate toughness to even make it to the professional level.
"It starts with toughness, though. That's not the first thing on most people's lists when it comes to talking about receivers, but you talk about a guy that was tough, now. He (Keenan McCardell) wouldn't miss a practice with a separated shoulder," Coughlin stated when asked about McCardell helping the young receivers, though his talk about toughness took a sudden shift from his original answer. The Jaguars receivers group did deal with a lot of injuries last season and in prior seasons, but I'm not sure Coughlin specifically was calling the receivers soft.
"That's a little bit of something that has to happen. This league can benefit from more of that attitude and this team can benefit from that attitude, as well. You're a pro. This isn't pass-and-tap," Coughlin continued. "It's a tough game, it's a tough business. You have to play through some things if your team is going to succeed. The more of that attitude that can be accomplished, certainly not talking about a serious injury, but I'm talking about things that can be played with. He's one of the bell cows for that."
We can go into the difference between being hurt and being injured, but again I'm not sure Coughlin was specifically talking about playing "injured" more so than he was speaking to the mental aspect of toughness in professional sports and he touched on that a few questions later.
"At times. It may not be the key word, but it is part of it," Coughlin clarified when asked about if he felt the Jaguars the past few seasons were not tough. "There's a mental toughness part of this thing I'm talking about too. You've got to finish."
The last line I think is ultimately what Coughlin was trying to get at when talking about McCardell playing through injuries, because a lot of that is mental. You have to be able to convince yourself you can get through it and you also have to convince yourself you can finish football games. There were a number of games, not only in 2016, but during the Gus Bradley era where it felt like the Jaguars let it slip away and just couldn't finish.
How many times did you watch a Jaguars game and something would happen and you would think "Well, here we go again," and never expect them to recover?
At times, it appears like the players thought that too. I don't know if that's the "learn how to win" mantra that was constantly preached by Bradley, but the reality is the team felt like they were mentally weak against adversity, which is shocking considering how much adversity they faced the past four years. Coughlin, and most notably Doug Marrone, is going to have to find out how to cure that mindset going forward so they can finish games.
If you have a team that crumbles as soon as things don't go right, that's how you end up winning 15 games in four years. There's more to being tough in the NFL than playing through injury.