Gus Bradley: Are we giving the Jags coach a pass?


Gus Bradley came to the Jacksonville Jaguars with an infectious enthusiasm that we all got behind. He was almost giddy about turning the franchise around with new general manager Dave Caldwell in 2013. You could sense that he knew how much work was in front of him and he liked it. He wanted to dive in, get his hands dirty, and start molding a team in his image.

After two years and a 7-25 record that enthusiasm still remains. It’s impressive for a coach with such limited success to keep things positive and stay excited, but Bradley is a rather extraordinary coach. That 7-25 record is also extraordinary. In fact, his .219 winning percentage is the sixth worst record in NFL history among coaches with more than 32 career games coached. according to SB Nation.

I would much prefer a coach who is extraordinary in a positive way on the record side as well.

I preach patience with NFL head coaches. I don’t like seeing a guy fired after one year. The removal of Mike Mularkey – as uninspiring as he was – seemed premature to me. I like that Gus Bradley is being given time to craft his team and that Caldwell and owner Shad Khan aren’t turning the heat up on him. In light of that staggeringly bad statistic, however, I am forced to ask whether we’re giving Bradley a bit of a pass.

It may sound ridiculous to say, but the mess that Bradley inherited is mentioned almost as much as the economic mess Barack Obama inherited when he became President of the United States. We like to chalk struggles up to the roster-destroying work of former GM Gene Smith. We like to ascribe the problems to those past seasons under Mularkey and Jack Del Rio. So far, Bradley has done no wrong. It’s just the type of struggles we attribute to anybody trying to turn around that massive mess.

Or so we tell ourselves.

Jan 18, 2013; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars new head coach Gus Bradley reacts to a question as owner Shad Khan listens at a press conference at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Some franchises continually struggle. The Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns are often the first ones anybody every thinks of. Their coach turnover is pretty high, the Browns seemingly have a new GM every other year, and the teams are always seeking change. Sometimes it seems premature. Other times it seems that they just see the writing on the wall early enough and move on. A former Oakland head coach hasn’t done great things after leaving Oakland since John Gruden and the last quality Browns coach people can think of is Bill Belichick.

Maybe those franchises just aren’t afraid to make moves because they know what’s wrong when they see it (they have a lot of experience seeing it, of course). Meanwhile, we stay the course here in Jacksonville. Many of us wish Tom Coughlin hadn’t been fired, we stuck around for some painful years under Del Rio, and now we have a couple of terrible years with Bradley. Is it just his infectious enthusiasm that keeps us interested? Is it his positive nature that keeps us coming back and expecting big things?

I believe in Gus Bradley. I believe in Dave Caldwell. I think they can get the Jaguars more wins and I think that they will improve together. At what point do we start saying that the problems they are facing are at least in part due to them? We’re entering year three of a massive rebuild and roster overhaul, but in this year enough pieces should be in place. At the end of this year, it may be time to stop giving Bradley and Caldwell a free pass. It isn’t just going to be the mess they inherited anymore, it’s going to be the mess they’ve created.

Hopefully their record improves enough that this conversation all becomes academic.

Next: 5 players who will be much better in 2015

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