Owner Shad Khan credits Tom Coughlin with Jaguars' success

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan knew the power structure he wanted to implement hadn't worked well in other places, but he was convinced it was the best thing to do for his franchise.

Turns out he was right -- but it worked out even better than he had hoped.

The Jaguars won the AFC South for the first time in franchise history, are making their first playoff appearance since 2007 and have their first home playoff game since 1999, and it began when Khan decided to bring in Tom Coughlin, install him above general manager Dave Caldwell in the pecking order and give him total control of all football operations.

"Tom has been a very successful coach," Khan said Thursday from his suite overlooking the field at EverBank Field, where the Jaguars (10-6) will play Buffalo (9-7) on Sunday. "This is a different stage for him. Can he embrace it? I think It turned out better than probably, certainly, I thought it would. And really the credit is to him.

"I can tell you he never asked for the 53-man roster. It was my idea. 'Tom, that means nothing changed [if he didn't give him control]. It's maybe not good for Dave's ego, but there has to be somebody in charge, and it needs to be you.'"

It's easy to see why Khan wanted change. The Jaguars were 17-63 since he took over as owner in 2012 and hadn't won more than five games in any of those five seasons. Khan hired Caldwell, who in turn hired Gus Bradley, and they began a complete rebuild beginning in 2013. By the end of the 2016 season, however, it was clear things weren't working, and Khan fired Bradley with two games remaining in the regular season.

He decided to try a different approach and turned to Coughlin, the franchise's inaugural coach, who took the team to a pair of AFC Championship games in the first five seasons of existence and won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants.

"What I felt we lacked was football IQ," Khan said. "You just can't say, 'Let me go to craigslist or backpage.com and get some football IQ.' You want somebody who really has the passion, the emotion, the drive. Nobody really personifies it better than Tom Coughlin. ...

"This job is just too hard for what is the conventional business model that you've got a GM and he hires a coach and this happens, that happens."

The interesting thing, however, is that Khan didn't tell Coughlin, Caldwell or coach Doug Marrone, who replaced Bradley on an interim basis, how he wanted the power structure to work until just before he finalized Coughlin's hiring.

"And it was basically, 'If you don't like it, tell me and I'll do something else for you, but I think this what we need moving forward,'" Khan said.

One year later, the move has paid off. The Jaguars are back in the playoffs, and the team sold out the stadium in less than an hour after tickets went on sale to the general public. The team released an additional limited number of tickets (approximately 1,200) on Thursday afternoon, and those sold out in four minutes.

The general feeling before the playoff matchups were determined would be that the Jaguars would be the Saturday afternoon game. Instead, it's a 1:05 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday and CBS is sending its No. 1 broadcast team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson to call the game.

"Could you imagine the hottest ticket in football is right here, selling for five, six times face value?" Khan said. "I hate to say a comparative thing, but you could buy a Titans-Chiefs ticket for 38 bucks and our cheapest ticket is 300 bucks, standing room. Could you believe that happening in freaking Jacksonville? Part of that, obviously is the Bills, who haven't been in, and we haven't been in."

When Khan hired Caldwell and Marrone, he gave them three-year contracts and gave Caldwell a one-year extension so the three are under contract through the 2019 season. Khan said Thursday that signing the group to an extension is not something he will address at this point.

But he's clearly happy -- and vindicated.

"There are a lot of things we can go back that would look idiotic today if things hadn't gone right," he said.