Why Gus Bradley is not on the Hot Seat in Jacksonville?
When your head coach is 0-6 for the second time in two years, there should be a cautionary red light that goes off in the franchise’s front office and with the media and fan base.
The red light has been bright in the media and the fan base has more than voiced its opinion – both good and bad in recent weeks, but if you ask Jaguars’ general manager Dave Caldwell about the team and job being done to promote a winner, he will tell you the job coach Gus Bradley is doing is right in line with what he expected this season.
“Yes, absolutely I do,” Caldwell told the Florida Times-Union Wednesday morning at EverBank Field. “I think our coaching staff is doing a great job of developing our young players, I think our young players are doing a great job of accepting the coaching and we’ve got veterans like Paul Posluszny, Sen’Derrick Marks, Roy Miller and Alan Ball doing some things.
“We’re close to being where we thought we would be."
Not even a little bit behind considering the free agent additions (left guard Zane Beadles and defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant) and another draft class (headlined by quarterback Blake Bortles)? The Jaguars didn’t envision losing by four games by at least 17 points, right?
“Obviously if you win a game or two, you would feel better about it,” Caldwell said. “But I felt going into this year, [the first half] would be a lot like last year but we would be more competitive in those games — and we’ve done that in four of the six games — and then we would have a better second half of the season. So far, that’s held true. Now we just have to learn how to close those games out.”
Gus Bradley is the kind of coach everyone wants to play for. That is one of the reasons players who were released from the Seattle Seahawks, his old stomping ground where he served as defensive coordinator, wanted to come across the country to play in north Florida.
The schedule the Jaguars have is not the easiest of schedules and admittedly, they may have allowed the last two games – Pittsburgh and Tennessee – slip away from them. The running game is nonexistent, the offensive line still gelling and the receiving unit just recovering from injuries. Even in the two losses by a total of 10 points, there are signs of life in this roster.
The Times-Union article touched on several issues that make this staff and team one that can still be effective this season.
- Caldwell said owner Shad Khan remains “incredibly supportive” with the plan put in place to build the Jaguars. The two usually talk on Fridays and Mondays and exchange text messages throughout the week.
- Caldwell said he called Khan in the lead-up to the Week 3 game against Indianapolis about the team’s plan to possibly play Bortles if Chad Henne continued to struggle (Bortles entered at halftime). “I try to inform him of the big stuff as much as I can,” Caldwell said.
- Count Caldwell among the rest of the organization and Jaguars fans who have been encouraged with Bortles through one mop-up game and three starts. “The thing that has impressed me the most that I wasn’t 100 percent sure about was his athleticism and his ability to avoid the rush, get out of the pocket and make the off-schedule play,” Caldwell said. “I think he ran a [4.93-second 40-yard dash] at the Combine but you see him on the field, he probably moves a lot better than that.”
- The Jaguars don’t regret their decision to have Bortles watch the first 2 1/2 games. “I had a feeling it might work out this way,” Caldwell said. “But I think he needed those first couple weeks to collect his thoughts. I thought it was important for him to settle down and work on some of the things he needed to work on mechanically. “He’s just finding his way and hopefully he continues to improve.”
- Bortles has seven interceptions but is completing 67.8 percent of his passes. Do the offensive players around him need to step up their games? “What I’m seeing, they’re starting to,” Caldwell said. “Unfortunately, [right guard] Brandon Linder and [receiver] Allen Robinson didn’t get a chance to sit [like Bortles] but they’ve learned as they went along and you’ve seen continued improvement from those guys and guys like [left tackle] Luke Joeckel in his second year and Zane Beadles has started to play better the last three games. “We knew it would be a little of learn-as-you-go and a little bit of a developmental process on offense throughout the season.”
- The Jaguars’ running game appears broken (last in yards per game at 69.5 and sixth-worst with a 3.5-yard average per carry). But Caldwell and the coaching staff have seen glimmers of hope recently.
The next two games are “gettable” for this team, but a win or two will not erase the issues that are still present. That’s fine with Caldwell. As long as the team and Bradley follow the blueprint Caldwell has orchestrated things will be fine. It may take another season, but progress is on its way.