Tom Coughlin turned the training camp of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars into a stalag, with his rules of deportment: no golf clubs, no unfastened chin straps, no jewelry, no trash talk, no negative talk, no negative thoughts, no thoughts at all (just kidding about the last couple). This represents one approach to expansion football. Carolina, the other expansion franchise, has chosen a softer route, but Coughlin's method might work, if one important condition is met: The players must be convinced that he knows what he's doing in terms of personnel and X's and O's. If players think a coach is unsound in either of those areas, then the Tough Guy routine just becomes fodder for wry anecdotes years down the road.
O.K., the season will reveal how well Coughlin has prepared this team—and ain't that profound? For the offensive line to be decent, the Jags will need their No. 1 draft choice, tackle Tony Boselli, to return quickly from the knee injury he suffered in July. The quarterback spot is solid with Steve Beuerlein and Mark Brunell, the running game is functional, and the defense has some intense people, such as Jeff Lageman and tackle Kelvin Pritchett. The Jaguars went lighter on free agents than Carolina did, and a lot of their draft choices will be on the roster.
Some observers are saying that four wins will be a terrific season for Jacksonville and that three will be a pretty good one. I look at it differently. I think it's how hard the team plays, especially in hopeless situations. That's when you'll know whether Coughlin's approach was on the money.