New England Patriots

Can the Jacksonville Jaguars win a big playoff game on the road? Well, they just did. But can they do it in Foxboro against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots? Tight end Marcedes Lewis certainly believes so.

Lewis published a new story on Friday in The Players’ Tribune ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. The headline: “We Can Beat Anybody. Anybody.”

That’s quite a confident statement. And it quickly becomes clear that Lewis credits one man more than anyone for turning the franchise’s culture around and instilling that confidence: senior vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin.

It shouldn’t shock anyone that the former Giants head coach and noted hardass would transform a laughable franchise into a professional, winning operation. But Coughlin won’t get much credit for the product on the field since he’s not a player or a coach. Still, based on Lewis’ words, Coughlin’s presence clearly seems to have had a big effect on the locker room.

Marcedes Lewis credited Tom Coughlin . (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin watches warmups before the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Marcedes Lewis Story: Notable Quotes

Coughlin started simple:

“It wasn’t just that the talent level was higher, but the culture was different. That all starts with Tom Coughlin. When he came in there was an immediate trust in what he was trying to do simply because his credentials are unquestionable. He’s a future Hall of Famer who’s [won] two Super Bowls and he’s proven over and over again that he knows how to beat the best. Out of the gate, he didn’t hit us with a bunch of philosophy about winning or anything like that. His message was simple: Be a pro.”

Lewis continued, explaining how Coughlin (and even head coach Doug Marrone) helped change the team’s mentality to that of winners:

“I guess that should be obvious, but where we were at, there wasn’t a lot of cohesion. Losing has a way of eroding trust. So many coaches and players would come and go so quickly, it was difficult to form any sort of meaningful relationships. Sometimes I’d look around the huddle and it seemed like I was surrounded by strangers. For years we lost games in every way imaginable and were considered a laughing stock. Eventually that just became our culture.

But with Tom and Coach Marrone, it felt like we were given blank slate. Expectations shifted, and everyone in the building started competing at a level I haven’t seen since I’ve been here. Every play, every meeting — hell, every lunch — we’re pushing each other to be our personal best. By the time Week 1 arrived, we went to Houston — underdogs, of course — and in front of a loud, hostile crowd, we walked out of there with a 29-7 victory. … And like that, expectations changed. We weren’t the team everybody in the league viewed as an easy W. Now we were a team nobody wanted to play. … That was a feeling I could get used to.”

“We Can Beat Anybody”

Lewis’ story continues with a vote of confidence in Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. But it concluded with a passage about the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro – and Lewis, like he should, feels that if the Jags play their best football they will win.

“Now we’re facing our toughest challenge of the season, and maybe the biggest game in franchise history. Definitely the biggest game I’ve ever played in. We know there are a lot of doubters, but I don’t think we’d have it any other way. What matters is what we — the players, the staff and all of our fans — know, which is that when we play our best, nothing can stop us. When we play the type of football we’ve prepared to play, we know we can beat anybody. Anybody. And that’s the difference between having a talented team and being a successful franchise.

Coughlin certainly isn’t short on big-game experience, especially against Bill Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots. If there’s any active figure in the NFL who knows how to beat them, it’s him. And it starts with confidence and fearlessness.

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The teams that have beaten the Patriots in their past playoff letdowns certainly had tough, talented defenses. But perhaps more importantly, they marched into these games without fear or doubt. It’s a big intangible component to how the usually-favored Pats fell to Coughlin’s Giants in the Super Bowl (twice), John Harbaugh’s Ravens (twice), and Rex Ryan’s Jets in some of their most historically disappointing defeats.

What To Expect On Sunday

Do the Jaguars have the same kind of conviction? Will they roll into Gillette Stadium without getting spooked by the Belichick-Brady mystique? Their president of football operations definitely will. And if the Jags want to have a chance to pull the biggest upset in franchise history, Marcedes Lewis and the rest of the players will have to do it too.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.