Remembered mostly by his hardened demeanor on the football field and bright red nose in Lambeau, Tom Coughlin’s legacy in the NFL became a mixture of fear toward the sergeant-like coach and curiosity behind a humanity from Tom that fell second to no one.
After his 12-year tenure as the New York Giants head coach and brief stint(s) in Jacksonville, Coughlin left the game with eyes on a new chapter ahead: spending his remaining days as a 70, 80, 90-something with his loving wife, Judy Coughlin. His idea of a perfect life after football fell apart once Judy was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy. The incurable brain disorder has rendered Judy without the ability to communicate or retain memories of people she once embraced with candor and joy.
Having been Tom’s No. 1 teammate throughout his years in the NFL, Judy’s condition now calls on Coach Coughlin to serve a role as her best supporter — a call to action based on a pact they made when they first got married back in 1967.
In a New York Times story penned by Tom Coughlin titled “Nothing Could Prepare Me for Watching My Wife Slip Away,” the former coach shared his grief with having to watch the remnants of his wife’s character fade away as she battled with the brain disease. She was first diagnosed in 2020 after months of complications.
“Taking care of Judy is a promise I made 54 years ago when she was crazy enough to say ‘I do,’” said the former coach. “I do want the players I coached in college and in the NFL who thought all my crazy ideas about discipline, commitment and accountability ended when they left the field to know that is not the case. The truth is that is when those qualities matter most. A friend said we don’t get to choose our sunset, and that’s true, but I am so blessed to get to hold Judy’s hand through hers.”
Judy, known by her warm and welcoming aura, was the perfect antithesis to Coughlin’s militant style.
Despite the awful effects of PSP that have left Judy unresponsive and immobile, Tom is still dedicated to being Judy’s source of strength as he now embraces his new chapter as her caretaker.
According to an NHS report, speech and language are largely hindered by the condition and can be assisted with therapy. However, the news of a PSP diagnosis remains grim. Per the report, “average life expectancy for someone with PSP is around 6 or 7 years from when their symptoms start.”
Founders of the Jay Fund, a non-profit created to assist families dealing with the struggles of a cancer diagnosis, Tom and Judy Coughlin have long supported other families in need after witnessing the pain of a terminal condition that once took the life of Jay McGillis, a Boston College player under Coach Coughlin in 1992.
After news from Tom’s article spread across social media, people in and around the Giants organization reached out with their warm thoughts and prayers for a Coughlin family that always sought to help those in need.
Judy and Tom share four children and eleven grandchildren — the strongest team Coach Coughlin’s ever led.
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