Note: In 1996, Coughlin’s second season as Jacksonville’s head coach, the Jaguars had to defeat the Atlanta Falcons on the final day of the season to make the playoffs. Morten Andersen, who scored more points and kicked more field goals than anyone in NFL history, missed a 30-yard attempt with four seconds remaining. The Jaguars won, 19-17, to secure their first postseason berth.
Q: You play the Dallas Cowboys this week in a "win-you’re-in, lose-you’re-out" scenario. You’ve been coaching in the NFL since 1984. Is the Morten Andersen game in Jacksonville the only other time you’ve coached a game in which a victory puts you in the playoffs and a loss ends your season?
Coughlin: “It was the same kind of deal. Win and you’re in, lose and you’re out.”
Q: What is it like to play a game like this?
Coughlin: “It’s the all-or-nothing idea. I don’t talk at all about the other situation. You just have to win. There’s no margin for error in something like this. But it’s been like that for two weeks for us. It’s no different.”
Q: A game like this, all the games you’ve coached, I don’t know if nervous is the right word but do you get a different feeling? You always say you sleep well the night before a game…
Coughlin: “Playoff game. It’s a playoff game. It’s been that way for two weeks for us. We approach it exactly the same way. You appeal to the players and the players know that whatever is necessary, whoever is needed, whoever has to play whatever position, it’s all go. There’s nothing being held back. It’s exciting, no question about it. And it’s what you prepare for year-round – to get in a position like this. You can’t do anything about what’s happened in the past, but what you can do something about is what’s going forward. So take advantage of the opportunity.”
Q: In the back of your mind, did you think the division would come down to this game?
Coughlin: “Well, I think back when we beat them (on Dec. 11), I did. And then moving on, you just figured you’ve got to keep winning. The Washington situation was definitely a setback to my approach to what I thought might happen, but in reality, it was always, ‘We’re going to have to play Dallas again.’”
Q: On Wednesdays, you customarily introduce the opponent to your team. You had just played the Cowboys three weeks ago, so …
Coughlin: “It doesn’t matter. I told the coaches I want this treated just as if we don’t know anything about them. Everything that is known, I want it all gone over. I want the details all done. I’m going to present the Dallas team, naturally, all the changes since our game. But we’re going to approach it just exactly the same way.”
Q: So you treat it as if you haven’t seen them in a year?
Coughlin: “I treated them like I treat everybody. I give them every bit of information that we can make available to them so that they know as much about the opponent as they possibly can and anything that will help them in their opportunity to play well.”
Q: When you play a team twice in four games, does it become a chess match with the coaches?
Coughlin: “Well, yes. It’s what their changes are going to be and what ours are going to be. What are they going to do differently? What are we going to do differently? And there will be significant differences in the game, perhaps not to the naked eye, but there will be.”
Q: Are there always significant differences when you play two games against a team so close together?
Coughlin: “From my standpoint, there are. I can’t speak for anybody else. And it’s all situation-oriented. Sometimes you don’t get the situation, but you don’t see anything different. But if it’s a normal circumstance, you’ll see something different.“
Q: Conversely, you want to do what you did well the last time.
Coughlin: “What you do is you approach the game from looking at what they did well, what you did well, what they didn’t do well, what you didn’t do well, try to improve what you didn’t do well and you try as hard as you can to anticipate what they will do in order to improve areas that they did not perform well. I mean, you’re doing the same thing with your own team. What can we do to improve the areas of our team that fell short in what we were attempting to do?”
Q: You mentioned that the defense practiced well last week. Do you think that was a big reason the unit played better in the victory over the Jets?
Coughlin: “Absolutely. It wasn’t just the way they practiced, it was the spirit. It was the way they went about it. It was the obvious intent, the purpose. There was greater purpose. It was a demonstration of greater purpose. It was a very significant upgrade in the intensity with which we practiced.”
Q: You had one practice (Wednesday). Did you see that carry over?
Coughlin: “It’ll come. It will build. You’ll see it. It’ll build as you go along.”
Q: I’m sure it’s good to get
Coughlin: “You add another significant, very, very good football player to the mix. Because of that, you do increase the opportunities to get to the quarterback, to create the turnovers, to put more speed on the field, to do all those types of things. Just like we talk about, whatever time of the year, the more you have the better you are. The more players of an outstanding caliber that you put on the field, the better off you’re going to be.”
Q: This seems to be the time of year you’re often losing players. It must be a nice change to get one back.
Coughlin: “It is. That’s why I say it’s that time of year. It is that time of the year, and when you start putting it into perspective of playoff games, there is a rejuvenation. There is an attempt to get out of the training room.”
Coughlin: “I was happy for them because they have played very well and they’re being recognized for it. I would think that there isn’t anyone that has anything to do with our league that isn’t aware of the level of outstanding play. I’m happy that they were recognized and I’m further happy that they have distributed to the other members of their team, their franchise, the idea that it’s a team game.”
Q: You were asked about
Coughlin: “Everybody. The entire team has to play at a higher level. You have to bring all the emotion, all the passion, all the heart. When you play the game with the descriptive words that I’ve just utilized, it’s very obvious, and really when I see people performing at that high level, they’re not subject to the emotional ups and downs. They play their way right through that type of thing, and that’s what has to happen in a game of this nature.”
Q: The last time you played Dallas you had to prepare for (running back) DeMarco Murray, and you got a heavy dose of Felix Jones. Now you get to prepare for Jones. Does that change anything you do going into the game?
Coughlin: “No. He runs the ball very well. He utilized both his power and his speed. He runs well behind his blockers. He does catch the ball out of the backfield for them, and he knows he’s the guy right now. And you can see it in the quality of his play.“
Q: Tony Romo had a big game in the last meeting. You expect him to be healthy. As you look at the tape, did you see things that are correctable in defending him this time around?
Coughlin: “Yes, obviously. The two mental errors that caused the breakdowns for big plays down there, you want those eliminated, period. There’s always tremendous room for improvement, and that’s no different in this game – on offense and defense and special teams.”
Q: When you’re on offense, is DeMarcus Ware the guy you have to be alert for?
Coughlin: “He’s the obvious guy that rushes the passer with tremendous success. He comes by the respect that you grant him based on his performance. We see a number of their people play well. Jay Ratliff and Sean Lee and (Anthony) Spencer. And (Jason) Hatcher is having a very good year. Bradie James comes in the game, and you’ve got all that to deal with, too. You have a guy like (Terence) Newman who anticipates and studies and reads and tries to get a jump on what you’re doing based on the picture that he sees as you come off the ball. (Mike) Jenkins is a very talented guy. So they have a lot of talented football players, and they do have the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. You have the guy (Ware), as you mentioned, with 18 sacks and 25 quarterback hits."
Q: They have eight different guys that have returned kickoffs. Now they seem to have settled on Dwayne Harris.
Coughlin: “He’s a good-looking young guy. He comes off the practice squad. He’s a receiver by trade, but his size is 5-11, 204 pounds of outstanding speed, runs low to the ground. He’s physical, does deliver a blow, and he does fit that mold very well. I’m sure if (Kevin) Ogletree comes back, they may use him back there as well.”
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