NFL morning after: When does Gus Bradley start rebuilding?
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is a likable guy, a rah-rah coach who makes you think you wish you could play on his team. Fans like him, reporters like him, players like him. I don’t feel good about saying what I’m about to say about him.
But here’s what I have to say: Gus Bradley is one of the worst coaches in NFL history.
Look, I’m not trying to be mean to the guy. But Bill Parcells loved to say that you are what your record says you are. And Bradley, whose team got blown out in San Diego yesterday, is now a coach with an 0-2 record this season and a 12-38 record through 50 games as the Jaguars’ head coach.
Do you know how bad a 12-38 record is? There have been 170 coaches in NFL history who coached at least 50 games, and Bradley’s winning percentage ranks 169th out of those 170. The only coach with a worse record was Bert Bell, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1936 to 1941. And the only reason Bell wasn’t fired is that Bell was also the Eagles’ owner.
The Jaguars went 4-12 in Bradley’s first year, 3-13 in his second and 5-11 in his third. But this year, Bradley’s fourth season, was the year the rebuilding project was supposed to come to fruition. There were people predicting that Bradley finally had his players in place to make a run at the playoffs. The AFC South is down, so why not? Why can’t Jacksonville get to the playoffs for the first time since 2007?
Well, they can’t make the playoffs if they’re the team that showed up in San Diego yesterday. The Chargers are not exactly an NFL powerhouse, but San Diego destroyed Jacksonville on both sides of the ball, jumping out to an early 21-0 lead and never looking back. The Jaguars are now 0-2. If they’re going to compete for the playoffs, they need to start competing. Now.
And if they’re not going to compete for the playoffs, how can they justify keeping Bradley? This is a results business. A coach is supposed to get results, or else a team is supposed to find a coach who can. Bradley is running out of time to rebuild the Jaguars.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:
Something’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers. In the first two weeks of this season, and going back to late last season, Rodgers is simply not playing the same kind of football he used to. Yards per pass attempt is one of the most important statistics for assessing a quarterback, and Rodgers is one of the best in NFL history in that department: Entering last season, his average yards per pass of 8.2 was the third-best ever and by far the best of any active quarterback. But last season Rodgers averaged a career-low 6.7 yards per pass, and this season he’s even worse, at 5.9 yards per pass. Counting last year’s playoffs, Rodgers has averaged less than six yards per pass in six of his last seven games. At age 32, Rodgers looks like he’s starting to slip.
Hester still has it. Baltimore’s Devin Hester, the best return man in NFL history, had a 48-yard kickoff return in Sunday’s win over the Browns. It was the 25th kickoff return of 40 yards or longer in Hester’s career. (He also has 21 punt returns of 40 yards or longer.) Hester finished the game with 80 yards on two kickoff returns and 22 yards on two punt returns.
The extra point return rule is great. When the NFL changed the extra point rule last year, the big headline is that kicks were moved back to the 15-yard line. But my favorite part of the rule is that blocked kicks can now be returned, and the defense gets two points for taking it all the way to the end zone. That only happened once last season, and yesterday it happened for the second time in NFL history when Ravens rookie cornerback Tavon Young took a blocked Browns extra point for a score. Those points would prove to be critical in the Ravens’ 25-20 win, and those plays -- even if they happen only once a season -- make extra points a lot more exciting.
The Saints are a rebuilding team with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Usually when a team is in rebuilding mode, it’s a team looking for its franchise quarterback. The Saints have their franchise quarterback, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, and yet as I watch them, they still look like a rebuilding team: New Orleans, which fell to 0-2 yesterday, has holes all over the roster. It’s hard for me to picture the Saints plugging all those holes while the 37-year-old Brees is still in his prime.
Bring back Mike Carey? I never thought I’d say this, but I actually missed Mike Carey yesterday. Carey, the former NFL referee who took a job as an analyst for CBS, was mercifully taken off the air this season after repeatedly getting calls wrong last year. But CBS could have used him during Sunday’s Titans-Lions game, when Matthew Stafford took an illegal low hit and the announcers went on and on and on trying to figure out why it wasn’t penalized. The answer is that it wasn’t penalized simply because the ref didn’t see it, which a former ref like Carey would hopefully have been able to explain. (It took Mike Pereira, who analyzes officiating on FOX, to chime in on Twitter and explain that the hit should have been flagged.)
There’s still a lot of football left to play. If your team is 2-0, you feel like celebrating today. If your team is 0-2, you feel like crying today. But remember that we have a long way to go before the season is over. The Jets, Cowboys and Falcons all started 2-0 last year and missed the playoffs. The Texans and Seahawks both started 0-2 last year and made the playoffs. Don’t lose hope if your team isn’t playing well. Although if you’re a Jaguars fan, maybe it is time to lose hope.