I don’t think you can call Jaguars Owner Shad Khan’s statement today a vote of confidence for Head Coach Gus Bradley but I don’t think it’s an ultimatum either.
The message though is very clear:
Win next year.
With 12 wins in three years, the expectations are that in year four, Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell will have had enough time to tear down and rebuild the roster to a competitive state.
When Mike Mularkey was the head coach in 2012, he said often, “We’ll take our lumps” and told his confidants, “We need players.” That was evident that year as they only won two games and the following year when Caldwell and Bradley took over and they won three.
Not really expecting much more, and perhaps less, Caldwell continued to tinker with the roster, making more moves in 2013 than any GM in history. Bradley continued to try and instill his culture of player empowerment on the franchise and in 2014 they won three games.
But the building blocks were in place according to their philosophy, drafting a left tackle; a quarterback and a dominant pass rusher this year. Injuries have slowed the process, but they smartly never put a timeline on it. They had the one backer they needed, Khan, and they stayed true to their plan.
To look at their personnel decisions, Caldwell and Bradley have had some hits and some misses. Blake Bortles looks to be the quarterback they can build around. Allen Robinson is a star and Marqise Lee is starting to look like he could potentially fulfill the promise he showed in college. Telvin Smith is the total package. They got lucky with Allen Hurns who has blossomed into a starter. But Luke Joeckel hasn’t fulfilled the expectations of the second player taken in the draft. Jonathan Cyprien hasn’t developed into that stalwart at the back of the defense. Josh Evans has been inconsistent. Zane Beadles has been suitable but not a star. They cut Ace Sanders and Jeremy Harris. Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray can’t get into the lineup and Denard Robinson has some flash but it’s taken them three years to figure out what to do with him.
Slowed by some of their early decisions, Dave and Gus know Shad’s patience isn’t infinite. And that was clear in his statement today.
While Khan confirmed that Bradley would continue as the head coach for 2016 he added, “It’s also evident the considerable work that remains to be done to be where we expect to be at this time next season, which is well above where we stand today. And Gus understands that.”
Whoa. “And Gus understands that?” In other words, ‘Win some games.”
Shad wasn’t finished, saying that he and Caldwell are confident that 2016 will be the best of Gus’ career and they expect the coaching staff and the team to “respond favorably to this news in preparation for Houston on Sunday.”
Another one of those, “OK, I’ve said you’re sticking around so go out there and get the job done.”
Khan is pretty well known for giving the people who work for him the tools to succeed and then expecting results. It’s no different with his football team and in evident in his closing sentence today:
“We have high ambitions.”