Tom Coughlin has been fired as Jacksonville Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations, just two days after the NFL Players Association released a statement highlighting multiple players’ grievances against the franchise. Coughlin, 73, was allegedly set to retire this coming off season but amidst the rising controversy since the NFLPA’s announcement, Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn saw no option but to relieve Coughlin of his duties with just two games of the regular season remaining.
Just a day after an impressive come-from-behind win at the Raiders, the 5-9 Jags were surrounded in controversy as the NFLPA sent the following email to players informing them of the successful grievances filed against the club, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter.
“In a recent decision from a grievance filed by our union, an arbitrator affirmed that, under the CBA, clubs cannot require rehabilitation or medical appointments at team facilities during the offseason and pre-training camp period.
Historically, our union has fought hard to secure broad freedoms for players after the season ends. For that reason, the CBA limits what a club may require of players during the offseason.
Despite this, the Jacksonville Jaguars recently decided that they would require injured players to get all offseason rehab at the Jaguars’ facility. When players failed to attend these ‘mandatory’ offseason rehab sessions in Jacksonville, they were disciplined by the club. In response the NFLPA filed a grievance challenging the club’s right to discipline a player in those circumstances. For example, during the 2018 offseason program, the Jaguars fined a player 25 times for missing ‘mandatory’ appointments with a club trainer or physician. All told, the player was fined over $700,000 for missing offseason appointments. This is just one of the many grievances we had to file to protect our players from the Jaguars’ actions.
The jointly appointed arbitrator rejected the Jaguars’ arguments that they had a right to fine a player for not rehabbing at the club facility. He held that, with limited exceptions, offseason activities are ‘strictly voluntary,’ and no club can make those activities mandatory.
The decision puts a stop to the blatant overreach by the Jaguars and emphasizes the voluntary nature of almost all football activities during the offseason, it should be noted that Jaguars’ players continues to be at odds with Jaguars’ management over their rights under the CBA far more than players on other clubs. In the last two years, more than 25% of the grievances filed by players in the entire league have been filed against the Jaguars. You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”
The days following the release of the email saw multiple NFL players make comments on social media, including current Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. The 24-year-old confirmed that he won back a $99,000 fine he received in 2018 for sitting on his team’s bench while inactive. Jalen Ramsey, who forced a trade away from the franchise earlier in the season, made no public comment but instead tweeted the ‘wide-eyes’ emoji, perhaps highlighting why he was so desperate to continue his career elsewhere.
With this dissension matched with poor performances and ill-discipline throughout the season on the football pitch, pressure grew on Shahid Kahn from fans and media alike to make changes. The Pakistani American billionaire released the following statement just a couple days later:
“Within the past hour I informed Tom Coughlin that he was being relieved of his duties as executive vice president of football operations of the Jacksonville Jaguars, effective this evening. I determined earlier this fall that making this move at the conclusion of the 2019 season would be in everyone’s best interests but, in recent days, I reconsidered and decided to make this change immediately. I thank Tom for his efforts, not only over the past three years but for all he did from our very first season, 25 years ago, to put the Jacksonville Jaguars on the map. General manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone will each report to me on an interim basis. My expectations, and those of our fans, for our final two games and the 2020 season are high.”
Tom Coughlin was the head coach of the Jaguars when they first entered the league in 1995 and was New York Giants head coach from 2004 to 2016, winning two Super Bowls in that time. He will be fondly remembered by both franchises but the breakdown in discipline and quality on the pitch meant Jags fans needed to see change in their front office before long.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Coughlin was due to retire at the end of the season, meaning it is unlikely we will see the New York-born man working in the NFL again.
Meanwhile it is sure to be a turbulent offseason for the Jaguars, with the tone of Kahn’s statement suggesting General Manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone’s positions are far from safe. Whatever happens, it is vital that Kahn plays this situation carefully and makes the correct decisions, or he faces his franchise being alienated and looked down upon by players and fans for a while to come.
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