With nine losses and six of those in a row, you might expect many of the questions asked of Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley are the same week in and week out. And they are. A lot of “What happened” and “Why” is discussed at his weekly press conferences. It can be frustrating on both sides, asking the questions and answering them but Bradley has kept his head about him through the tough times.
“I think all the questions are appropriate. I think there is a coach’s perspective,” he said discussing the Jaguars loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
He’s protective of his team, but is right when he says the team remains focused and motivated. “Character” is how he’s described it in the past.
“It’s hard to explain, but these guys are professionals,” Gus explained. “They know when you go through tough times like this, you just have to work. You just have to go through it and stay strong with one another and keep doing the things that you’re doing that you believe are helping you get to a place.”
As the losses mount, Bradley and the team have been under heavy criticism, fans and media alike calling for changes, including Bradley’s firing. It’s not that Bradley hasn’t heard that, or doesn’t understand it. To him, it’s just another thing he can’t control.
“You can’t control critics. You can’t control anything other than — what we can do is how we handle the circumstance and how we can handle where we’re at right now,” he said when asked how he deals with talk of the future. “The way they played and how they go after their job is impressive to me. You just hurt because you want those wins to come with it for the effort.”
When he’s asked about a specific player or play, Bradley usually deflects the question, saying he doesn’t want to get into scheme or reveal too much. But on Monday when asked about the 75-yard TD run by LeSean McCoy on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Gus didn’t name Tashaun Gipson as the culprit, but for the first time, outlined, in football coach speak, what happened.
“It’s a D-Gap running play where he cut back. Corners on the outside fitting of the D-Gap and the safety has the inside fitting of the D-Gap. If they became both on the outside of the D-Gap, then they’re wrong. It’s the D-Gap. I don’t know if that helps you. It was a D-Gap running play that cut back in there and you have two guys on the outside or the inside of the D-Gap.”
Regarding the second punt at the end of the first half that resulted in a long return and led to a touchdown, Bradley said he thought about all of the things that went into the first effort, their lack of coverage and the time on the clock. But he thought Brad Nortman was capable of flipping the field at that point. (It was particularly noticeable since Steve Tasker, an announcer on the broadcast and a noted special teams player during his career, disagreed with Bradley’s decision making and what he predicted might happen, happened.)
“He’s (Nortman) seeming to be fine, he shook it off and he was ready to go. You’re hoping that to have a drive start on the 40-yard line with a minute and 20, 30 seconds left and one timeout, when we have a chance with Brad, hit a 60-yarder with hang time. We had one later in the game, a 60-yarder, hang time, fair catch and we’re good just to put them at the 20 or the 25,” he said of his thought process.
As far as holding players accountable, Rashad Greene’s two fumbles on back to back punt returns were going to bring him out of the game, regardless of injury. Bradley says a players effort has to be borne out by his execution.
“I am sure he is frustrated over the fact that he knows he is very capable of doing it and he had a couple like that take place.,” Gus said. “After that, the decision was [to replace him], but never got to making the decision because [the medical staff] told us he was out.” (Greene officially left the game with an Achilles injury)
And as far as not calling time out on the 4th and 4 when the Jaguars suffered a delay of game, while the responsibility ultimately falls on the head coach, Bradley had seen Blake Bortles take the play clock down near zero while changing the play earlier in the game and thought he’d do that again. But it didn’t happen. Blake didn’t call time out either. And the 4th and 4, a manageable distance, became 4th and 9, a much tougher play.
“He has the ability. I saw it. I felt like that was what was going to happen. It delayed a little bit, but looking back at it I take responsibility for that. I should have called a time out. In a critical situation like that, to keep it in that down and distance where it is manageable, would have been great looking back at it. I take full responsibility for that.”
Very noble of Bradley, but that’s on Blake. The play clock is right in front of him. You can coach Bortles to call the time out, but if he doesn’t, who’s to blame? You can coach Denard Robinson to make the tackle in front of him, but if he doesn’t, who’s to blame. And you can coach Tashaun Gipson to stand in the hole, or Allen Hurns to make the routine catch but if they don’t who’s to blame.
In the end, players gotta play.