Jacksonville Jaguars: Gus Bradley is playing for 2016


The Jacksonville Jaguars suffered a humiliating, heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, falling 13-16 in overtime.

It’s a game that should have been won on the leg of young kicker Jason Myers, but he managed to miss wide on his two potential game-winners.

More from Jacksonville Jaguars News

But right now it isn’t time to blame a young kicker who is just trying his best (though it would be nice to see those kicks connect and be sitting at 2-2). Right now, it’s time to take a breath and really evaluate the Jacksonville Jaguars.

We’re a quarter of the way into the 2015 season and the Jags sit at a disappointing, but not wholly unexpected 1-3. The mess on Sunday should have been won and the mess in Week 1 was certainly winnable. Fortunately, the Jaguars managed to hang on for a win in Week 2 against the struggling Miami Dolphins. If they hadn’t, we’d be having a much more panicked conversation right now.

While it is decidedly a time to start worrying as Jags fans, it’s important to look at how the team is positioning itself for the future.

We’re in year three of the David Caldwell/Gus Bradley rebuild and the record isn’t pretty. Despite being 7-25 after two seasons and now just 8-28, Caldwell and Bradley have gotten a vote of confidence from owner Shad Khan. They don’t have to win a certain number of games and Khan almost seems content with looking at their work and noting they are more competitive than when he arrived with Gene Smith and Mike Mularkey heading things up.

"“I think (you evaluate by asking) are we better than two years ago? I think unquestionably we’re better than we were two years ago.” – Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan"

In fact, Khan has always been supportive of his wet behind the ears GM and his first-time head coach, going so far as to note that the coaching is ‘great‘ just this September before the season began.

Aug 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Does he have the same feelings now that the Jaguars are 1-3? Would he have the same feelings if they were 0-4 (as they have come dangerously close to being)? I’m certain he would have those feelings if they were 3-1, no matter how messy the wins were.

In my mind, Shad Khan is still happy with Gus Bradley and Dave Caldwell heading up the Jacksonville Jaguars. He knows the product on the field isn’t New England Patriots level good but he is also confident that the calculating Caldwell and the exuberant Bradley are able to set a positive tone and steer in the right direction.

I’m not so certain we’ll be seeing Gus Bradley on the street at the end of 2015 and I think he’s playing into that.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, once considered a possible “Seattle South” when then-Seahawks defensive coordinator Bradley came to Jacksonville, it’s clear that while the size is there and the scheme is there, it just isn’t working. The defense, Bradley’s specialty, is the key to focus on here.

The Jags defense isn’t filled with ballhawks and shutdown corners like Seattle’s. Davon House could hardly pass for a poor man’s Richard Sherman. The defensive line isn’t generating pressure like the Seahawks’ without resorting to blitzes.

In short: the base defense is failing the Jaguars.

That defense, the cornerstone of what made Bradley so incredibly appealing, was supposed to be fixed with additions like 2015 first rounder Dante Fowler Jr. and fourth round safety James Sample. Fowler was supposed to replace Chris Clemons as the leo pass rusher and dominate opposing defenses. Sample was supposed to be a quick insert at free safety.

Nov 2, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley in the in the second half of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated Jacksonville 33-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Instead, we see Fowler missing the season before he could take a snap and Sample failing to compete against a resurgent Sergio Brown after breaking his arm in the offseason.

Are those two players enough to heal an ailing defense that continues to underwhelm?

I think that’s the case that Bradley will make when he fights for his job at the end of the season. If the Jags end up 4-12, 5-11, or even 6-10, he’ll be making a case to Caldwell and Khan about why he should still be in charge.

In my mind, he still has a case. He’s still working on crafting what he promised three years ago. He’s still molding young players into this form that he desires. Maybe it won’t be a perfect match to the Seahawks. Maybe it will be. Bradley sure as hell better figure it out fast, though, because he’ll have to compensate one way or another.

For now, Gus Bradley isn’t going anywhere. To me, he’s playing for 2016. He’s not done making his team yet and I think Shad Khan will give him another chance. Only time will tell, but so far we’re seeing a team that is disappointing more than it is miserable and as sad as that may sound, it’s improvement.

Next: COUNTERPOINT: Yes, it's time to start worrying

More from Black and Teal