Though he swears he'll never mellow—"Discipline is as important to the athlete as the air he breathes," Coughlin maintains—there does seem to be a glasnost as the Jaguars grow accustomed to his pace. Frustrated in his attempts to hire a replacement for offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who was hired as the Cleveland Browns' coach last January, Coughlin decided to call his own plays in '99. He says he wouldn't have been able to handle the increased responsibility in previous years, when more babysitting of his players was required.
Coughlin also reacted to the team's recent run of injuries—Jacksonville finished last season with a league-high 13 players on injured reserve—by scaling back on padded practices during training camp and, for the first time, working injured players back into the lineup gradually by limiting their plays during preseason games. "Things like that are really, really smart," says one Jaguars veteran, "and then all of a sudden he'll do something stupid for no reason."
Pressed for an example, the player cites Coughlin's rule prohibiting white socks and sneakers in hotel lobbies, even though sandals, sans socks, are allowed. "I just hate that look," Coughlin says. "That looks like you're Joe Lobby or some kind of tourist."
As he says this, you look down: Coughlin is wearing white tennis shoes and white socks. "But I'm not in a hotel," he says. "I'm at work, so it's O.K."
It's not the most logical explanation, but if Coughlin's team keeps playing the way it did on Sunday, who's going to question him?