During his three-year tenure as the Jaguars Head Coach, Gus Bradley has redefined what ‘victory’ means. He was always looking for improvement, getting better, playing your best. But with Owner Shad Khan’s expectations that the team be ahead of where they were at the conclusion of the 2015 season, I asked Gus today whether he would have to move on to the traditional definition of victory in the won-loss column.
“Like I said, you have to be real and understand that it is a results-driven league.,” Bradley said during his year-end press conference. “We talk in terms of victory in terms of being the best that you can be. You go back and look at it, well, what happened yesterday? Why didn’t we win? Well, we weren’t our best. It comes back to that. If you’re not at your best, then the results don’t come. That part of it is still the message, and we have to find out how to be our best consistently. That part of the message won’t change.”
It’s not hard to get caught up in Gus’ message of “be your best” but the reality is he has to win more games next year to keep his job. Barring some calamitous injury to many of the stars, Bradley’s 2016 Jaguars will be expected to compete in the division. Against Houston on Sunday, they didn’t appear to be ready for that. But Bradley said with the number of draft picks they have and the money available in free-agency, they can improve the roster through competition or cuts. That might mean parting ways with some players he and GM Dave Caldwell brought in from the beginning.
“I think that’s the one thing that I do appreciate with Dave is that, boy, we really try to fight to not let our egos get involved because if your egos get involved then you make decisions based on who’s right rather than what’s right,” Bradley explained with the turn of a phrase.. “I think you have to know the time and place to know, it’s time. We need to move on. But it’s always a challenge. What I appreciate is our conversations about them are, as much as possible, without any ego involved.”
Which means once he gets his staff in place, (Doug Marrone has been mentioned as a possibility for several of the head coaching vacancies in the league) they’ll have to take a hard look at how they coached and how the players responded this year. Agreed, there were several one possession games and the Jaguars nearly cut in half their points differential per game, but winning those games and not taking a step backwards is imperative.
“I think this offseason we really need to dig deep. But I think also the emphasis was on how much work needs to be done, and as a coaching staff we have to dig deep.”
And they have to be willing to accept what they find. If that means changing some things, personnel, coaches, schemes, then so be it. Because it’s about the results.
“It’s a results-driven league and we’re not to the results that we had hoped for,” Bradley agreed. “So I think that’s what we need to look at.”
One of the things Gus explained today at his year ender was how he looks at a player’s development, especially on defense. He said there’s the learning process, then the understanding of “coach speak.” But he emphasized how the players have to play above the coach speak. That they have to make plays within the schemes and the system, something they have flexibility to do once the coaching staff thinks they’re ready.
“There are some guys that you look at and are new to the system, and then there are those guys that you talked about that it’s their third year. And I think knowing the difference who can you offer flexibility to, and trust them?
No doubt the Jaguars will spend money on free agency differently this off season than they have in the past three. They need players who can contribute now, not develop a few years down the road. Last year Bradley reportedly wanted to bid on Ndamukong Suh but Caldwell said, “Not yet.” Well, now’s the time to break the bank on a player like Suh if he’s available. Otherwise, somebody else will be making the decisions for 2017.
When posed with this situation, Bradley said he has a loyalty to the organization and the people there, trying to put his ego aside.
“And then I think it always comes back to,” Gus said, ‘Let’s stay true to what we talked about. Let’s always make decisions [for] what is best for this team and this organization,’ and not let my ego get in the way., I know it sounds like the holiday season when I say it, but it means a lot to me and it means a lot to everybody here. And I think [what’s] most important is to stay true to the plan.”
I’ve said many times Bradley is easy to root for because he’s authentic and truthful. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice today that he really believes it’s going to work and the decisions he and Caldwell have made and will make in this off season will pay off for the organization for years to come.
For his sake, I hope he’s right.