Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is once again under fire after the team’s embarrassing meltdown in a 33-16 loss on Sunday to the Oakland Raiders.
It would be perceived as a blessing if the more than two touchdown loss was the post-game talking point for the Jaguars, but Bradley spent a good chunk of Monday’s press conference speaking about the extracurricular activities on the field that led to the ejection of two star defensive players.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson was tossed from the game early in the fourth quarter after picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The league is cracking down on unsportsmanlike conduct, and an automatic ejection is now in play when a player picks up two penalties. Jackson actually stood in the vicinity of Bradley on the sidelines as he yelled in the direction of the officials. The referee decided he had enough and threw a second yellow flag.
Not long after Jackson was escorted off the field, cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ejected for fighting with Oakland receiver Johnny Holton.
It was a bad day for Jacksonville. The team unraveled and lost its poise in front of its home crowd.
“I do [take it personally]. That’s a reflection of me as a head coach,” said Bradley. “It’s a reflection of our discipline. It’s a reflection of how our culture is and how we talk. And how we handle things. So yeah that part of it hits home with me because obviously it’s my responsibility. The demeanor of this team and how we approach things and how we play with poise. It is. I take personal responsibility of that.”
And it hasn’t been a good reflection.
After a massive overhaul in the offseason, the Jaguars are still sitting at dead last in the AFC South division. Bradley has presumably been on the hot seat all season long after owner Shad Khan went on record about his expectations for a winning season this year. The team hasn’t managed to win more than five games since Bradley took over in 2013.
But perhaps the most unsettling issue from Friday’s ejections has been the complete lack of remorse from players, particularly Ramsey. During a media scrum in the locker room after the game, he told reporters he would probably do the same thing again in that situation.
“If I was out there nine more times I would do the same exact thing,” said Ramsey. “I don’t think I should’ve been thrown out the game for it. Neither do I think [Holton] should’ve been thrown out the game for it. But I’m not going to be disrespected. I’m pretty sure ya’ll know that about me by now. I would do the same thing.”
There is something to be said about playing with an edge on the football field, and the Jaguars can certainly benefit from the large injection of attitude they received on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason.
But that also can’t come at the expense of the team. The Jaguars can’t afford silly penalties, and they also can’t afford to have impact players like Jackson and Ramsey thrown out of a game. That’s not the formula to winning.
It only points to a lack of leadership in the locker room and on the football field. Bradley’s group isn’t buried just yet, but they are well on their way to another disappointing season with below average play.
“It’s unacceptable—Malik and Jalen—those two penalties where you get disqualified from the game,” said Bradley. “It’s unacceptable. I don’t know if that has anything to do with being aggressive. I just know that’s not being smart at that point and time in the game.”
That’s not being smart at any point in a game.
These few weeks will set the tone for the rest of the Jaguars’ season. Bradley must find a way to right the ship because his job might depend on it.