Jaguars Close to the Tipping Point
I’m not sure what to make of the Jaguars 1-9 record here at the bye week. While I didn’t think they’d be a playoff contender this year, I also didn’t think they’d be this bad. You knew with a young team they’d struggle at times but to look completely out classed in so many situations is pretty unnatural.
What it takes to win in the NFL is a good organization, a coach who knows how to get the best out of his players, talent on the roster, the will to win, and just the occasional bit of luck.
With Shad Khan at the helm, the Jaguars organization seems to be healthy and vibrant. This past week in London when I asked him about winning in the near future he said, “It’s important that everybody knows what Gus and my expectations are.” Which is the kind of culture and leadership they’re building: Here’s what we expect, do your job and we expect results.
In Gus Bradley’s first head coaching job in the NFL, he appears to have the job reined in enough to get his message across to the players and coaches. Some guys ascend to the top of the coaching ladder and aren’t suited for it at all. The job’s not too big for Bradley. His philosophy has worked as a coordinator and it follows what they’re doing in Seattle. It’s a bit cutting edge and experimental but you can see by talking to the players that if it takes root, it’ll flourish. He doesn’t seem to be getting the players best these days but it’s hard to figure out if it’s a lack of talent, youth, or his coaching philosophy isn’t working. It’s probably still too early to definitively find the answer.
The players are frustrated and angry, mostly with themselves. “I think that’s a testament to the character of the guys we have in this locker room” Zane Beadles said after the 31-17 loss to Dallas in London. “Each guy knows they can play better. I know I can play better. We need to put that into action and see hat e can do individually to play better and help the guy next to us. Get away during the bye week and come back ready to go these next six weeks.’
That’s the thing about the Jaguars roster in 2014. With a few exceptions, this group of guys says the right thing and tries to do the right thing, sometimes to their detriment. Instead of just doing their job, they try to do to much. Maybe that’s the hallmark of a young team, or perhaps they still have a few pieces that need to be found and inserted into the lineup. The players believe the answer is among the guys currently on the roster, that they’re going to get it together.
“I really do like this group of guys,” Gus Bradley said at his post game press conference. I”I don’t worry about their effort, their courage, they’re willingness to do the right thing. It’s just the self inflicted things that are giving us problems.”
But at what point do those “self-inflicted” things either stop happening or you move on to somebody else? That’s the question coaches get paid to answer and if the don’t get it right, they’re out of a job. Bradley doesn’t have to worry about that for now, but if the decisions he makes this year about guys being able to grow into solid players from talent rookies don’t pan out as he expects, 2015 could be another year of change for the franchise.
Players like Jonathan Cyprien and Denard Robinson are the new faces of the Jaguars, but they’re still in the learning process when it comes to professional football. I asked Cyprien if he took a bad angle on Dez Bryant that allowed the TD. He was forthright with his answer: “Took a bad angle, made a bad decision to try and tackle and him instead of shove him out of bounds. It’s the kind of play that I’m better than but I need to show it. This isn’t the kind of player I am.”
Robinson echoed those feelings, admitting that the team believes they’re better than what they’re showing. “Oh, yeah, we’re better than this, ” he said after the London game. “It’s those things were doing in games that hurt us. Mistakes, turnovers, we need to clean those up. We’ll get this thing turned around and when we do, it’s going to be something.”
And that’s what we’re all waiting for, the development of young players like Cyprien and Robinson to the point where they don’t take a bad angle and they don’t fumble the ball on extra effort to keep themselves from succeeding. It’s possible they’re right; it’s going to be something. But an equal number of teams have gotten to this point and just never made it to the top. Hard lessons are taught in the league. Whether those lessons are learned or not will play out over the next year.