But Coughlin, who was lured away from BC after last season, did get in some practice coaching. "The thing we aren't doing is the split-second gymnastics of calling plays under pressure," Coughlin said. "So I try to make calls when certain situations come up." Midway through the first quarter he had a perfect opportunity. The Eagles had a fourth-and-six at the Redskin 32; their kicker is the rather weak-legged Eddie Murray. "Punt or try the field goal?" Coughlin was asked as the Philly coaches huddled to consider the-same question. Just as Murray was pushed onto the field to try a 49-yard field goal, Coughlin said, "I punt. If you punt, you pin the kid quarterback [rookie Gus Frerotte] deep in his own territory. If you miss the field goal, you give them the ball at their 40—their best field position of the day."
Bingo. Murray missed the field goal. And Frerotte promptly led Washington to a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
In the coming year and beyond, Coughlin will be making nearly every important call for Jacksonville. But his first responsibility will be deciding how to fill his roster. He almost certainly won't select a quarterback with his first pick of April's draft (the second choice overall); none of the current crop is worth such a lofty pick. If the Jaguars do not trade the pick, they are likely to go for a pocket-collapser such as defensive tackle Warren Sapp of Miami or Florida's Carter. But Coughlin has reliable contacts around the NFL from the years he spent as an assistant with the Eagles, the Packers and the Giants, and he won't be afraid to trade down.
Last week a clue to Coughlin's thinking lay on the stand holding the 32-inch TV monitor and VCR in his office. He had 15 tapes of veteran quarterbacks on the stand, including Arizona's Steve Beuerlein, Chris Chandler of the Rams, Mark Rypien of the Browns and Mark Brunell of the Packers. Brunell, a lefthander in his second season, might be an interesting prospect because, a source close to the Packers told SI, he may be available in exchange for a second-round pick.
The Jaguars are also considering a run at 39-year-old Phil Simms, the former Giant quarterback and current ESPN broadcaster; a low-cost veteran such as Friesz; and a quarterback of the future such as Kansas State's Chad May or Steve McNair of Alcorn State. While Simms would probably cost Jacksonville $2 million a year and might not hold up behind the weak offensive line the Jags are certain to have, signing him might not be as foolish as it appears. Simms would be the first one in the locker room in the morning and the last one out of the weight room at night, and he would be the perfect mentor, no matter how much or how little he played, for McNair or another young quarterback.
"How can you know now?" Coughlin said. "All we can do is work every day so we'll know enough about every player and be able to make the right decision when the time comes."
A coach's work, even when he's not coaching, is never done.
Shake It Up, Pepper
Give democracy some of the credit for the Browns' 6-2 start. After Cleveland lost at home to the Steelers in Week 2, middle linebacker Pepper Johnson, safety Eric Turner and defensive tackle Michael Dean Perry met with coach Bill Belichick and urged him and defensive coordinator Nick Saban to give the defense more freedom to adjust plays on the field. Belichick, normally a do-it-by-the-book type, gave his O.K., and the Browns reeled off five straight wins. Despite a 26-14 loss to the Broncos on Sunday, the Browns have allowed only 105 points; through Sunday's games, only the Packers, who played on Monday night, have been stingier.
When Johnson was a Giant, Belichick was New York's defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells. Says Johnson, who is leading Cleveland with 94 tackles, "This is how Belichick and Parcells raised me to play: Give us a way to attack the offense, teach us the tendencies, and let the players play. Who knows better what's going on out there than the players?"