In Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans, a television camera panned onto Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who was scribbling feverishly on his notebook. The more Bradley scribbled, seemingly the more bad things were happening on the field.
This year's version of the Jaguars is considerably more talented than the squads Bradley directed over the previous two seasons.
In most of the last two years, the Jaguars were outmanned roughly 80 percent of the time by rosters that were much further along. The Jaguars were just hoping to "hang in there" and wait for something good to happen.
The 2015 squad has had enough talent to compete with all but two of the teams on their schedule. Sure, there are plenty of weak spots which include the lack of a pass rush and poor safety play, but as Gus Bradley said prior to the season, "It's built."
If the roster is "built," then there are problems on the sideline and up in the coaches box.
The Jaguars don't intend for plays to fail, no coaching staff on any level does. Still, the team has looked ill prepared against most of their opponents this season, hence the 4-8 record.
The team has certainly improved and a lot of that is on offensive coordinator Greg Olsen creating a system that quarterback Blake Bortles can not only succeed, but thrive in. Bortles and the offense's improvement as a whole has taken the Jaguars from getting blown out nearly every week to playing close games, and losing most of them.
Is it a process that a rebuilding team needs to go through before they win?
It's tough to say, because every year teams go from losing records to winning their divisions.
Let's examine the Jaguars victories this season. First, they beat a Miami Dolphins team that was so poorly coached, their leader and coordinators didn't make it through half of the season. Their second win came against the Buffalo Bills, who were missing three starting offensive linemen, as well as their starting quarterback and two best receivers. Their next win came against a Baltimore Ravens team which had gone through a rash of injuries, losing their two best receivers, starting left tackle and best defensive player. Finally, their fourth win came against the Tennessee Titans, a team led by a rookie quarterback on a short week. Tennessee had the worst record in the NFL at that point.
To put it simply, the Jaguars haven't had a quality win all season long and the few "moral victory" losses have been overshadowed by losing to cellar-dwellers in San Diego and Tennessee.
Last Sunday's game against the Titans was the perfect storm of how the 2015 season has gone for the Jaguars. The offense was stellar, as they scored six touchdowns. Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson's career days were overshadowed by a Stefen Wisniewski snap that went over Bortles head for a touchdown, two missed extra points by struggling rookie kicker Jason Myers and numerous breakdowns on defense which led to the 42-39 outcome.
“I would say first of all, the one thing in defense that I look at and I say there’s some games that you go back through the season and look at it and say at the beginning of the season Carolina game, played pretty good; second game played pretty good; third game did not play well; fourth game and you go through it like that and just have a general overall view," Bradley explained. "You’re hoping for more consistency throughout. There’s going to be times where a defense might play better some games than the other, but the wide variety; 13 points here and then 50 points I think that’s the problem the more disappointing thing. How we bounce back I would think the passing game we’d like to have a little bit more effect on that. I’m pleased where the run game is but more consistency in the passing game putting the two rushing covers together.”
Situational football has doomed the team all season long. In seemingly every game, the defense has had trouble getting lined up and numerous times they've played with 10 men. In the New England loss, the team was driving into the red zone before halftime which would have made it a close game, but Bortles threw an interception. The following week in Indianapolis (against a backup quarterback), kicker Jason Myers missed a pair of game-winning field goals. The team had numerous breakdowns in the Tampa Bay loss, spearheaded by a fumble which was recovered for a touchdown by rookie running back Corey Grant. Also, running back Bernard Pierce was concussed and was blocking on a Jaguars punt, leaving open a huge hole for a big return. The Texans loss involved a fourth quarter pick-six, when tight end Julius Thomas ran the wrong route. The Jets loss involved four turnovers and six sacks, which included a killer punt return fumble by rookie Nick Marshall, who had never returned punts prior to this season, in the NFL. The Chargers loss involved the Jaguars trying to match up on Future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates with a backup linebacker which resulted in a pair of touchdowns. The team also gave the Chargers early life by faltering in the red zone with some questionable play calls. As we mentioned above, the defense was simply a comedy of errors against Tennessee in last Sunday's loss.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s an emphasis of us," Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "We’ve been talking about it, so you know what we’re not doing. To me, it’s something that’s very hard to evaluate, our guys are good guys. They go out there and they work hard. They do the things we ask them to do. The struggle the last two weeks; last week, there was some inconsistency with the tackling and things like that. I can’t put a finger on it. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s discouraging.”
If you pick and choose from any team, you'll find questionable mistakes in play calling and execution. As you can see, the Jaguars seemingly find ways to lose each and every week.
Did Gus Bradley tell Stefen Wisniewski to snap the ball over Blake Bortles head? Of course not. But Bradley always talks about accountability, and where is his?
Despite the atrocious win-loss record, nobody in the know believes Bradley will lose his job at the end of this season. He's a great guy to work with and his players love him, but the team should be much further along than they are.
Is starting over with a new head coach the proper course of action?
I guess one would have to define what "starting over" really means. There are talented pieces in place, but how much of a step back is it from three or four wins per year?
When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.