At the halfway point of the season with a disappointing 2-6 record, you could hear the wistfulness in Gus Bradley’s voice this week. He was reflective about his team’s reaction to the embarrassing performance against Tennessee on national television.
“That was really hard on us,” Gus said at his Monday press conference. “It was hard on our players. I was really excited to see how we would come back. The team did not flinch.”
It’s not unusual for Bradley to take his team’s “temperature” when talking about their reaction. He likes the character of the team, about sticking together and playing for each other. After their win in Chicago Gus said that kind of victory was about “love.” Most great coaches will tell you that teams who win have a certain affection for each other that’s unique. While the Jaguars aren’t near “good” they seem to be sticking together.
“We’re not sitting here talking about a team where this is two games in a row now,” Bradley explained about how he thought his team bounced back. “I give them all sorts of credit for that. Their character that we talk about.”
How to fix the Jaguars problems is the big question. They have enough talent to be more competitive but it’s not showing during games. Despite improvement, that’s not what the Jaguars say they’re looking for.
“We’re not after good; we’re after great,” Bradley said. “We need better and I think these guys all need to look in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do?’ Rather than looking at each unit.”
Could that start this week? A better running game should give Blake Bortles a better chance at playing better. Facing Houston this week at home the Jaguars get back into the division with a well-known opponent. Beating Houston, the division leader, could go a long way toward getting on track. “We need to take care of this game and win one to get hot,” Gus said, ever the optimist. “I just think this team can get on a roll. We are a few plays away from getting things done yesterday, but we didn’t make them for some reason. I think that’s what we need to take a look at it and everyone needs to take ownership of that.”
Specifically, Bradley said taking care of the football has to be their number one priority. Four turnovers gets you beat almost every time. Reaching out for the goal line has become very in vogue in the NFL, something coaches’ are not in favor of, including Gus Bradley. He referenced Chris Ivory’s fumble on the goal line as an example.
“He saw the line, thought there was a chance to get it, felt like the risk was greater than the rewards and it didn’t work to our benefit. You see it with quarterbacks jumping over the pile, guys going to the pylon and reaching the ball out. To a coach’s mind, the risk does not outweigh the reward, so you don’t teach that. Players sometimes fall into that. It’s so alluring, it’s right there for them. That’s going to happen.”
But it shouldn’t happen and if it continues to happen, the Jaguars will continue to have the same results. That’s where Gus Bradley and his coaching staff have to change the mindset of their players.