(Photo by Jaguars.com)
Right now, that mentality is inside the minds of Jacksonville Jaguars fans and optimists as quarterback Blake Bortles committed three to give away a game to the now 3-0 Baltimore Ravens. Barring Baltimore and Green Bay having losing records at season’s end, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is now facing an 0-22 record against winning teams and his third 0-4 start in four seasons.
Let us not kid ourselves as such records could make anyone a failure. However, to have regarded the Jaguars as a playoff contender was a failure in epic proportions compared to anything on Bradley’s resume as the Jags never showed signs of taking any significant leaps in the previous three seasons.
They went from 4 to 3 to 5 wins and had been 6-12 against the AFC South, a division whose teams combined for the NFL’s worst divisional winning percentage of .391 in 2015. To add insult to injury, as a memento for their third and final win in December 2014, they chanted “we believe in victory” after facing its ferocious rival, the 2-14 Tennessee Titans.
They may have acquired talented players like Malik Jackson and gained recovered and new high-quality draft picks like Dante Fowler, Jalen Ramsey, and Myles Jack. Nonetheless, it is not as if they had a great coordinator to set them up for any defensive success. Predecessor Bob Babich was fired after 2015 for guiding the unit to be at the league’s low end after not learning from his past mistakes with the Chicago Bears. To replace him, the Jaguars internally promoted defensive line coach Todd Wash. Without looking at his last name, you could tell that this hire was pretty much a wash as the pupil of the failed predecessor became the unproven and, eventually, underachieving successor.
Sure, the offense may have been better than the defense, but it was not good enough to save the defense from itself. The offensive line did not exactly upgrade with positional coach Doug Marrone retained and failed draft pick Luke Joeckel staying at left tackle. Plus, despite Bortles not having a lopsided touchdown-to-interception ratio in comparison to his first year, his sacks (106.0) and interception totals (35) remained at high rates after his first 30 games. Now, he has worsened with poor footwork and is set to lead the NFL in interceptions with a projected thirty-two at the end of the year.
But the fun does not stop there. The Allen brothers, Robinson and Hurns, have just two touchdowns between them, both scored by Robinson, and the running game is averaging a miserable 2.8 yards per carry. And they claimed they upgraded at running back by adding oft-injured Chris Ivory?
When a team is last and 14th in scoring points in its first two and third seasons respectively, and in the bottom-five in allowing points during that same timeframe, the only jump that they are ready for is one off a cliff. Most damning of all, as they have been 4-21 on the road, and every team has to outscore and prevent scoring from the opponent, the Jaguars have clearly not done either well enough to be competitive anywhere.
Based on what preceded and enabled the 0-3 start, it would not surprise me if Bradley failed to take responsibility for any of his mistakes and thus collaborated with general manager Dave Caldwell to use free agency to bail himself out. With incompetent people like Babich, Wash, Marrone, and Jedd Fisch leading and a pool of players that was sparse or disappointing in talent, both administrators may have constructed a pile of junk as an attempt to make their jobs less difficult.
As a result, things have become more difficult as Andrew Luck and the Colts are coming to town and history does not sit well on the Jaguars’ side. Only three 0-3 teams have made the playoffs since 1990, and if the Colts defeat them, being 0-4 will not only make it harder to enter the postseason but keep Bradley long-term.
The Jaguars have averaged 3.5 victories after every start that is 0-3 or worse since Bradley’s arrival. With coaching staff stagnations, changes, and poorness, and roster turnover not making things better, Bradley has run out of chances.
There is no point in keeping a guy that has failed as a schemer and leader and averaged four wins in his first three seasons but none with greater expectations in 2016. At the end of the day, a leader’s guidance, ideas, and changes have to impact the franchise, and, in Bradley’s 52 games, going from 2 wins under Mike Mularkey in 2012 to an average of 4 from 2013 to 2015 has not.
With the bye week taking place in less than two weeks from now, an in-season firing of Bradley could get the Jaguars their first win versus the Bears in Week 6. If they capitalize on it and turn around their season, the change will be proven fruitful and cost-efficient as Bradley has only one more year of pay after 2016.