JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jeff Lageman had no trouble identifying the exact moment the impact of Tom Coughlin's hiring was felt throughout the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise.
It was just after word leaked in the facility that Coughlin had told owner Shad Khan that he would accept the offer to become the team's executive vice president of football operations. Lageman, a member of the Jaguars' broadcast team, remembers that there was an immediate and distinct change around EverBank Field.
"There were more puckered-up a--h---s in this building when he was hired than you could imagine," he said. "The moment he was hired, people were nervous, and rightly so. The sense of accountability that he brings is unbelievable.
"It's unparalleled because people know when he's in the building, the expectation and the accountability, it's maxed."
That, um, biological response to Coughlin's hiring aside, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach has made a significant impact in the first year of his second tenure with the franchise. It might not be as obvious to those outside the organization, but it is to Coughlin's former players, several of whom are still around the franchise.
That includes Lageman. Before he became a broadcaster, he was a player on Jacksonville's inaugural team in 1995, and he played three more seasons under the maniacally stern Coughlin, who demanded players not slouch or wear hats in meetings, instituted a strict dress code (even in the hotel lobby) and set the clocks in the facility ahead by five minutes (that's the case now).
Lageman noticed that people inside the Jaguars' facility began acting differently after Coughlin took over. Not just on the football side, either, but on the business side, such as the marketing and ticketing departments.
"Everybody. Everybody," Lageman said. "The way people dressed in the building changed. People weren't wearing that casual wear any more, wearing sweats and all that kind of stuff. All of a sudden, people started wearing khaki pants and dress shirts and khaki pants and Jaguar shirts. You could tell.
"What's the old saying? The true measure of a man is what he does when no one's looking. Well, now someone's always looking. So I think you get more people that become more productive when you have Tom because they're looking to see how they can do more, but then they're also doing more within the guidelines of their job and not trying to go outside of what their job description is."
Big Brother -- or, if you prefer, the Godfather -- is watching, and he has a pair of Super Bowl rings.
'There's a weight with him'
Coughlin built the franchise from the beginning and took it to a pair of AFC Championship Games before he was fired after the 2002 season. That the Jaguars are in the conference title game in his first season back is no coincidence, said former Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli, the first draft pick in franchise history and now a member of the Jaguars' broadcast team.
"Him coming back and his presence and what he means to the organization and then coming in, there's a weight with him," Boselli said. "There's a weight in a sense that when he's there, it changes everything. It intensifies the culture and brings more intensity to the organization in everything that is on the football side of the house."
That weight also creates an air of discomfort throughout the facility, which certainly is a change from the more laid-back atmosphere of the past decade. Coughlin believes that people should thrive in discomfort, said former Jaguars defensive lineman John Jurkovic, who played under Coughlin from 1996-98.
"The expectations are that you're going to find a way to produce, and if you're not willing to find a way to produce, you're going to have a problem," said Jurkovic, who cohosts an afternoon sports talk show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "People being uncomfortable is a good thing. People having expectations put upon them is a healthy thing. Those people that don't look at that as a healthy thing, that's a problem. You have to root that out of there."
That's why Khan gave Coughlin final say over all football matters. Every football decision -- free agency, the draft, hiring, scouting, practices, player signings, trades -- falls at Coughlin's feet. That doesn't mean he's coming up with game plans or scheduling practices or deciding whether Player A should get more reps than Player B. But he is aware of, and is consulted on, those decisions.
"His influence is everywhere in that organization," Boselli said. "There's no question who's in charge and who is responsible in putting their stamp on every decision that comes to football. I think everyone knows it -- players, coaches, the scouting department -- and I think that brings a higher sense of accountability.
"He might not be micromanaging every aspect of it, but if it's something he doesn't want to happen, it's not happening. Or if he wants it to happen, it's going to happen."
Coach Doug Marrone has embraced Coughlin's role as football czar. He views him as a mentor and an encyclopedia. Having someone who has won two Super Bowls and coached in the NFL for 20 years just one office away is an invaluable resource and has made him a better coach, Marrone said.
Coughlin's influence does, indirectly, reach what happens on the field.
"I have learned a lot -- in practice, scheduling, dealing with players, dealing with issues. A to Z, really," Marrone said. "I wouldn't even have enough time to really talk about it. It didn't just start when he was here. It started back when I was at Syracuse and meeting with him. It has continually grown."
He added that there isn't a day that goes by when he doesn't ask, "'Hey, Coach, can you take a look at this and tell me what you think of it?' Or, 'How do you feel about this?'
"Our communication level -- I talk to him more than I talk to my wife, right now, during the season. The offseason, I hope that doesn’t happen.”
Working quietly behind the scenes
Jokes aside, the relationship Marrone has with Coughlin is significant because there certainly were doubts as to whether the organizational structure that Khan wanted -- with general manager Dave Caldwell reporting to Coughlin -- would work.
There also was concern, from outside the building among some who knew and had worked with him before, that Coughlin wouldn't be able to resist coaching. He was a coach at the college or NFL level from 1969 to 2015, and one year working in the NFL office wasn't long enough to get that out of his system.
Would he avoid meddling? Would he be OK not being on the sideline on game day? Could he avoid constantly second-guessing?
The answer, it turns out, was yes.
"He's a coach at heart, and there’s nothing more that he'd love to do is being on the grass and on the sidelines, but he knows that's not his job right now," Boselli said. "That doesn't mean he might not give input, guidance, suggestions, but I would not term it as ever meddling.
"Knowing him, I believe he respects the coaching profession and the game of football too much to overstep any boundaries."
Here's proof: Coughlin declined an interview request from Jurkovic this week because the Jaguars are Marrone's team and Marrone should be the spokesman. Coughlin is content to work quietly behind the scenes.
Make no mistake, though, Coughlin's return is a big reason the Jaguars won their first division title since 1999 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
"These guys have come together," former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said. "Everything's worked. In previous years, there were too many things that just didn't work.
"Leadership is critical. It starts at the top."