Chip Kelly wasn’t given a chance to finish his third season as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach. In Jacksonville, however, Gus Bradley was assured that he would be back for a fourth try.
Kelly and Bradley are an interesting case study in that Gus was set to be named the head coach of the Eagles back in 2013 before Kelly reversed course because of sanctions looming at the University of Oregon and decided to stick his toe in the NFL waters. The Eagles, in turn, said thanks but no thanks to Bradley, who found his safety net in Northeast Florida.
Over the ensuing years, Kelly finished his Philadelphia term above .500 at 26-21 in the regular season, but things were headed in the wrong direction–10-6 and a playoff berth after his first season, 10-6 and no postseason appearance in year No. 2 before the 6-9 mark in the current campaign. Meanwhile, Kelly’s lack of “emotional intelligence,” the term his owner Jeffrey Lurie coined on Wednesday, alienated him from just about everyone in the organization.
From a pure win/loss perspective, though, Kelly at his worst was better than Bradley ever has been in Jacksonville where a 4-12 rookie season was followed up by a 3-13 sophomore campaign and a slight uptick to 5-10 so far this season in the dreadful AFC South. That’s a dismal .255 winning percentage for those keeping score, which basically tells you Bradley wins one out of every four games he coaches.
“As a head coach, you’re evaluated by wins and losses; that’s the reality of it,” Bradley mistakenly said earlier this week. “On this journey, we knew it was going to be tough on the organization, the players, the fans. For the fans, the community and (owner) Shad (Khan) deserve better. It didn’t come out the way we hoped.”
Bradley should have conveyed that coaches are “eventually” evaluated by wins and losses.
In a year where the Jags’ main competition in the division had very serious issues, it’s almost unforgivable that Bradley didn’t put Jacksonville in a position to at least challenge for a playoff berth.
In Indianapolis, Andrew Luck was playing extremely poorly before being felled by kidney and abominable injuries, and over in Houston, the Texans are going to win the South despite ping-ponging back-and-forth between Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden at the quarterback position.
“Progress was made,” Bradley claimed. “We also understand we need to get better and get it fixed.”
Khan evidently saw enough progress and played the continuity card earlier this week, extolling “how far we’ve come in many aspects of our game” before officially starting the clock on Bradley by insisting more progress is needed to get “where we expect to be at this time next season.”
“There are some things both Shad and (general manager) Dave (Caldwell) appreciate – the culture, the process, the progress taking place,” Bradley said. “But we all fully understand we need better (results). And I think the coaches and players – we expect to be better.”
The perfect storm, however, is unlikely to blow in Jacksonville’s direction again next year. Under a new coach, Luck will likely reboot his ascent into a superstar signal caller and the Texans, at the bare minimum, will likely have more consistency at the game’s most important position.
So, others spin Khan’s actions this week in a different way, noting that Bradley’s contract expires after the 2016 season and the owner simply doesn’t want to pay another coach.
A lame duck rarely works in the NFL because the locker room understands what’s coming (see Chuck Pagano with the Colts this season). Unless Khan backs up his lip service with an extension, even one as little as a one-year, the Jaguars’ players will see the writing on the wall and understand they’ll likely will be playing for a new regime in ’17.
“I don’t want to say I don’t ever concern myself about my job,” Bradley said. “But my every intention is [about] this organization and for our players and how can we get this right and how do we keep improving rapidly.”
Rapidly is already off the table after three years of Bradley and it’s been replaced by imminently or else.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the The Sports Bash on ESPN South Jersey.
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