Coloring with Teal: Bradley and the Ever Improving Jaguars


About two weeks ago, you read a column I wrote in which I made the argument that the Jaguars were no longer the cure for other team’s ails.  After that article, the Jaguars promptly disregarded my observations and lost two winnable games in a row; they ended one team’s losing streak (Atlanta) and got in their own way in order to lose to the Saints.  So, was I mistaken?

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Let us put that question on hold and consider what lays ahead for the Jaguars, particularly in light of owner Shad Khan’s recent announcement that Head Coach Gus Bradley would be back for the 2016 season.  My esteemed colleague, Luke Sims, wrote about the value of keeping Bradley given his record.

In his article

, Luke pointed to Bradley’s W/L record and put it in context with history as well as his status as a first-time head coach.  Ultimately, Luke says, keeping Bradley around amounts to little more than providing our franchise with the type of stability seen in such rock-steady teams as the Steelers and the Ravens.

Perhaps, though, there is more to Khan’s decision than that.

But what about a head coach?  Do coaching staffs and the individual coaches have intangibles that make a difference?

Let us set aside the win-loss column for a moment, and consider the stuff of myth: intangibles.  These are the qualities that you cannot measure with a ruler or stopwatch, and are the things that writers and scouts LLOOOVVVEEE to rave about when it comes to quarterback potential.  For example, Todd McShay at ESPN wrote a year ago about Marcus Mariota having the desired “intangibles” successful quarterbacks have, whereas in 2013 Anthony Longhitano of Football Nation wrote about Geno Smith’s lack of intangibles and that they would lead to his eventual “bust” status.  But what about a head coach?  Do coaching staffs and the individual coaches have intangibles that make a difference?

Two current successful head coaches, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, have very different personalities.  Case in point: would you ever see the Patriots’ head man stand atop a set of lockers in excitement to address his team post-game, as Carroll did in Baltimore after Seattle’s 35-6 win?  Of course not, because we know Belichick to be the stern, quiet, stoic type, with a simple message: “do your job”.  Yet despite the dynamic differences in their coaching styles, both men have won a Super Bowl this decade.

By contrast, Mike Mularkey, a coach whose strict coaching style echoes of Belichick and former Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin, was a failure in Buffalo, Jacksonville, and has shown little improvement as interim coach of the Tennessee Titans over the last eight games this season.  Rex Ryan, he of the fiery press conferences whose style of personality appeals to players, left the Jets after a several rough seasons and has done little more in Buffalo this season.  The point is that the specific personality of the head coach may not tell all.

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Our last reasonably successful head coach was Jack Del Rio.  One of Del Rio’s strengths was staffing; if the coaching staff was not performing to his expectations, he made changes the following offseason.  Most notably was after the 2006 season, when he fired the offensive coordinator, the special teams coordinator, the quarterbacks coach and the wide receivers coach.  The result was an improvement from 8-8 to 11-5.

Last season, Bradley fired OC Jedd Fisch and replaced him with the much-maligned choice of Greg Olson.  Did this change result in more wins? No, but not necessarily at the fault of the offense, which has improved from 15.6 pts/game last season (31st) to 24.7 pts/game (10th).  Our offense has improved immensely and the QB and top two receivers have posted record-setting and seasons.  Bradley clearly made the right call with that hiring.

The surprisingly gaping hole in our team has become the defense, which is now 25th in the league.  Many have suggested that the Jaguars’ DC, Bob Babich, may be replaced this offseason.  If we assume that Bradley evaluates his replacement as effectively as he did for Fisch’s, and that Caldwell continues to show success in the draft, then there is plenty of reason to think the Jaguars will make the big leap we’ve been waiting for.

<img class="size-medium wp-image-54466" src="×200.jpg" alt=" Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback

Blake Bortles

(5) and wide receiver

Allen Robinson

(15) have both set new team records this season.” width=”300″ height=”200″ /> Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) and wide receiver Allen Robinson (15) have both set new team records this season. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

We hoped Bortles would make the leap from year 1 to year 2,  and he did.  He still needs work to further reduce the bad interceptions and avoiding sacks, but the progress from his rookie season has been all we hoped it would be.  Our wide receivers have placed themselves among the upper echelon of the league’s WR combos. Yeldon has had a decent rookie season despite injuries and some O-line misfirings, and it is expected he will develop further going into next season.  Our offense is now the strength of this team.

I agree with Luke Sims that Khan’s decision to keep Gus Bradley in place plays directly to developing a culture of stability, but I think that the stability that currently exists runs deeper than Bradley’s record. I’m not even sure we should even count the 2013 season at all, when we knew our roster was as bad as it was that season.

Yes, Bradley has possibly the worst W/L record in history, but is he failing as a head coach?  The players back Bradley, and buy into his message and style.  The offense has responded to his OC change. Within our division, two teams are facing head coaching changes in the Colts and the Titans, which opens the door for the Jaguars to contend for the division more consistently in 2016. With another draft that focuses on bringing in defensive talent by Caldwell, and a upgrade at DC, this team could realistically make the jump that they couldn’t this season.