Former Giants Coach Tom Coughlin Reveals Wife’s ‘Uncommon Brain Disorder’ in Emotional Essay

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Longtime NFL coach Tom Coughlin talked about his wife’s rare brain disorder in an emotional essay on Tuesday.

According to Fox News, Coughlin wrote the essay for The New York Times, telling readers that doctors diagnosed Judy Coughlin with progressive supranuclear palsy in 2020. A First Coast News report about the Coughlins said the illness is incurable.

The Mayo Clinic labels the illness as an “uncommon brain disorder.” A person inflicted by it will develop “serious problems with walking, balance and eye movements.” Swallowing is affected, and conditions worsen over time.

Tom Coughlin, Family Cope With Illness

The 74-year-old Coughlin is a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach and former front office executive. He said that the idea of sharing his wife’s prognosis and protecting her privacy was a tough decision.

“It’s only after some reflection that I’ve come to the conclusion that with my family and I are experiencing may be helpful for others to read,” Tom Coughlin said.

Coughlin said it’s been tough to watch his wife’s decline with the illness. He also said becoming her primary caregiver has been challenging as well.

“Judy has been everything to our family,” the former NFL coach said. “For the past four years, we’ve helplessly watched her go from a gracious woman with a gift for conversation, hugging all the people she met and making them feel they were the most important person in the room, to losing almost all ability to speak and move.”

Tom Coughlin said his wife now lies in bed watching the Hallmark Channel. She also sits in a wheelchair in the sun and gets round-the-clock care.

He added that she’s trapped inside a body “that will not allow her to be the person she was.”

The Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin from his executive vice president of football operations role before the 2019 season. With the Giants from 2004 to 2015, he won Super Bowls in 2007 and 2012. He also worked as the Jaguars coach from 1995 to 2002.

It was unclear when exactly his wife learned of her brain illness.

Tom and Judy have been married for 54 years. They have four children and 11 grandchildren.  

“I am not seeking sympathy,” Coughlin said. “It’s the last thing I want. It’s the last thing that most caregivers want. Taking care of Judy is a promise I made 54 years ago when she was crazy enough to say ‘I do.'”

Coughlin’s Wife’s Disease a Tough Fate

According to Lawrence Golbe, progressive supranuclear palsy affects six out of every 100,000 people.

According to Kieron Wood in his column for Ireland’s Independent daily newspaper this week, life is tough for those who suffer from PSP. In his story, the average suffering sees symptoms at 63. When diagnosed, the life span of that person is for another seven years. 

Wood said a few famous people had had the illness. They include Comedian Dudley Moore, actor Bob Hoskins, and singer Peter Sarstedt.