By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Around New England, some football fans are a little bit concerned about the old man lurking over the shoulder of Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone.
That old man is Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville’s executive vice president of football operations. And, OK, he’s not that old at 71 years of age, but in the course of his own career as the head coach of the New York Giants, Coughlin was a bit of a boogeyman for Bill Belichick.
While Belichick has been nearly unbeatable as the Patriots’ head coach, Coughlin had his number, beating the Patriots twice in Super Bowls. Coughlin also went 3-2 in the regular season as a head coach against Belichick.
That type of success is rare, and so “The Coughlin Factor” has been included as a potential game-changing element for this upcoming Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Jaguars.
But according to Marrone, he doesn’t anticipate that he’ll be taking too much from those Giants Super Bowl victories against the Patriots … because he’s never seen them.
“I haven’t watched ’em,” Marrone said Wednesday, drawing a laugh from the assembled media. “Seriously. If I’m not in a Super Bowl, I usually don’t watch it. Unless I have to.”
Marrone was quick to add that he wasn’t completely ignorant about the historic games, saying, “But David Tryee made a great catch. He’s a Syracuse guy.”
(Marrone was the head coach at Syracuse from 2009-12, which was his first head coaching job, and he played on the offensive line at Syracuse in the early ’80s.)
Marrone did, however, say that he will rely on Coughlin’s guidance this week — just as he has done every other week this year.
“I think, I mean, I’ve leaned on Coach pretty good from day one. I don’t think I can lean on him anymore, because I’m a big guy and if I lean on him, I may hurt him a little bit,” Marrone said. “But honestly, I think it’s not something that all of a sudden now that there’s some success that Coach is more involved. It’s been the same way since day one when we first started working together. So when you say, ‘Do you lean on him?’ — I’ve leaned on him quite a bit. We work with each other quite a bit. So we work the same amount of time together and talk about the same things.”
Marrone was also asked if it’s helpful to have assistant coaches like Pat Flaherty and Perry Fewell on his staff, as both were part of Super Bowl wins for the Giants over the Patriots. Marrone really dismissed the idea that games from many years ago involving completely different rosters could really apply much to the current day.
“It’s tough. You’re coming from different teams and you’ve got different people and different schemes. There’s a lot of different things. I just think it’s tough,” Marrone said. “But if someone has something they think they can do to help us, yeah, we’ll take it. [Expletive], we’ll take all the help we can get. There’s no doubt about that.”
The Jaguars head coach in many ways appeared to be Bizarro Belichick during his media session, at times being so candid that you could’ve forgotten he’s an NFL head coach. He was asked about the Patriots’ red zone defense and replied quickly, saying he hasn’t yet studied the Patriots’ red zone defense. (That’s what Thursday is for.) He was asked a question about the remaining quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs, and how three of them wouldn’t be considered prototypical NFL quarterbacks. Marrone admitted his own ignorance about Case Keenum and Nick Foles.
“I only know two of the quarterbacks, you know what I’m saying? So I can’t even talk about the other ones. So I wouldn’t know,” Marrone said. “I know we’re playing against Tom Brady, and I know our quarterback, but I don’t even know anything else about those NFC teams at all. So I wouldn’t be able to give you a good answer at all. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve played with small quarterbacks, big quarterbacks, everything, I was a college coach. You gotta play with them all. You’ve just gotta play with the best one. That’s a better question probably for Tom and Dave [Caldwell], they’re more the personnel guys. I’m more just a football [guy].”
Related to the Patriots specifically, Marrone was again pretty frank when asked about focusing defensive efforts on shutting down certain players and trying to really confuse Tom Brady.
“I’ve seen people do a lot of different things and not really have a lot of success,” Marrone said. “You’ve got to put yourself in what you feel is the best position. This team, outside of the New York Yankees, is probably the best dynasty that you’ve seen. They’re an outstanding football team. You’re talking about a team that is probably the best execution team performance-wise on Sunday since 2001. It’s going to come down to how we play on Sunday, and we’re going to have to play extremely well.”
It was, in general, a very loose and honest 17-minute session with reporters from Marrone, who simultaneously showed the elevated stage is currently not throwing him off his usual routine while admitting that the challenge facing his team this week is enormous.
But the real whopper is that a self-proclaimed football guy has never seen Super Bowl XLII or Super Bowl XLVI. Those were some dynamite football games.