NFC East: Jacksonville Jaguars

Coughlin
Our countdown of the top 20 NFL coaches of all time stops at No. 14 today with current New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The feature includes a first-person story from Eli Manning about the two of them breaking down what should and shouldn't have happened on the final offensive drive of a Super Bowl they'd won together an hour and a half earlier. It beautifully sums up Coughlin (and Manning, and why they were made for each other):
So after the game, Coach Coughlin and I started analyzing it. We knew they were going to let us score. Do you take a knee? Do you kick a field goal? Do you try to score? We start dissecting that, thinking into it. I threw in my theory. He gave me his theory. What's the best possible way? It was a unique situation. You've got to score. You don't want to settle for a field goal in that situation. How do you possibly handle that situation if it ever happens again? We do situations on Saturdays. That would be a good situation to think about and go over.

And I think he's ingrained that in me, to always be planning, always be thinking, and to be prepared for every situation.

Coughlin is old school. He's no-nonsense. He's about doing your job and not seeking to heap praise and glory on yourself for doing it. It has worked to the tune of two Super Bowl titles during his time in New York, and honestly he deserves more credit than he gets for his franchise-building work as the original head coach of a Jacksonville Jaguars team that went to the AFC Championship Game in two of its first five seasons.

He is not flashy or loud or self-aggrandizing. He is decent and genuine and serious. In a world that increasingly celebrates those first three things, I think it's pretty doggone refreshing to see someone who represents the last three get his time in the spotlight. While it might have seemed silly just three years ago to consider Coughlin one of the top 14 coaches in the history of the NFL, I think at this point there's little doubt that he's earned his spot on this list.
Mel Kiper's final mock draft is out, and I cannot contain my excitement. Mel has broken his longstanding rule about not predicting trades in mock drafts, and he has put a trade into his projections. What's exciting for me is that it's the same trade I made on behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles in Monday's blogger mock -- a deal with Jacksonville to move up to No. 7 and draft Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

I do not believe Mel stole this idea, because I believe he was probably doing something other than following the blogger mock draft on Monday afternoon. But the fact that he's thought of it too is, for me, validation. The unquestioned high point of my mock drafting career. I may retire on top now -- never do a mock draft again. Pull an Elway. Or a La Russa.

Anyway, as to the feasibility of this idea, I think it's totally realistic. They may have to give up more than I did in my mock deal with Kuharsky, since I was able to pull it off without surrendering either of the Eagles' two second-round picks. But they have the ammunition to do it, because they have 10 draft picks now following the Asante Samuel trade. Cox would be a fantastic pick for them, and if they've decided to make him a priority, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them move up to make sure they get him. I did, however, have someone tell me this week, when I raised this possibility, that "the Eagles might have to move up higher than No. 7" to get Cox.

Anyway, the rest of Mel's first round, as it pertains to the NFC East, has the Redskins of course taking Robert Griffin III at No. 2, the Cowboys taking Alabama safety Mark Barron at No. 14 and the Giants taking Mississippi tackle Bobby Massie at No. 32.
Just wrapped up our live ESPN.com blogger mock draft, in which I and the other seven division bloggers made the picks for each of the teams in our respective divisions. It was a blast, and largely because trades were allowed. I am proud to say that I was involved in the very first one, with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I based my decision on the idea that the Eagles had identified Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as the player they wanted. There had been some recent talk of him going to the St. Louis Rams at No. 6, and I was convinced that he would not get past the Carolina Panthers at No. 9. So, after Mike Sando selected Justin Blackmon for the Rams at 6 and Paul Kuharsky let it be known that the Jaguars were looking to trade down out of No. 7, I offered Kuharsky the Eagles' first-round pick (No. 15 overall) and their third-round pick (No. 88) for the Jags' first-rounder.

Kukarsky countered by offering the No. 7 overall pick and the No. 176 overall pick (sixth round) for the 15, the 88 and the 153. So I'd be getting the No. 7 overall (and with it Cox, the player I wanted) and a high sixth-round pick for a third and a middle-fifth. I believe, if Cox is indeed their guy, that this is a trade to which the Eagles would eagerly say yes. Get their man without giving up either of their two second-round picks. No-brainer. So we did the deal, and I picked Cox at No. 7 for the Eagles.

Cox is a great fit for the Eagles. He can shore up the middle of the defensive line against the run, and he also helps the pass rush from an interior line spot. He's a more polished prospect than fellow first-round defensive tackle Dontari Poe, and the Eagles are in win-now mode. I also could have taken Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at the No. 7 spot. (That's who Pat Yasinskas ended up giving to the Panthers at No. 9, after assuring me that he would indeed have taken Cox if he'd still been on the board.) But following the DeMeco Ryans trade, Kuechly didn't seem as important a target. If I'd stayed at 15 and he'd lasted that long, sure. But I wasn't trading up for a linebacker.

So let me hear it, Eagles fans. What do you think of my performance in the role of Howie Roseman? Good deal? Worthwhile pick? Or what?

Longtime Eagles LT Thomas joins the Jags

March, 9, 2009
3/09/09
12:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Former Eagles Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas has agreed to a three-year deal with the Jaguars, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton. Thomas went to four Pro Bowls with the Eagles and was a staple on the left side since the club took him in the first round of the '98 draft.

 Thomas

He wanted to stay in Philly, but the team didn't show a strong interest in re-signing him. The Eagles have shown once again that sentimentality doesn't mean much to them in terms of signing players. They didn't put up much of a fight (if any) to keep local hero Brian Dawkins and they weren't interested in paying an aging player to play left tackle.

So where does this leave Philly? Well, Andy Reid loves to talk about how he can turn guards into tackles. There's a chance the Eagles could move Shawn Andrews to left tackle and play his brother Stacy at right tackle, where Jon Runyan has played for years. I think that move could backfire. Shawn is trying to return after dealing with clinical depression and then a back injury last season. Is this really the best time to put him at the most important spot on the offensive line?

The Eagles have the Nos. 21 and 28 picks in next month's draft. You have to think they'll be thinking offensive line on at least one of those choices. But no matter what happens, the Jags ended up with a quality player. The only problem I could foresee is Thomas' adjustment to a more run-based offense. He's been used to playing in an offense that passes the ball about 65 percent of the time. At this point in his career, he's not an elite run blocker. And the Jags love to run the ball.

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