I was talking to my friend Dennis the other day, dissecting the Jaguars under Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley and what their plan has been and will be for the future. A season ticket holder, Dennis cut me off saying, “Yeah, whatever, it’s been miserable for the fans.”
You can talk all you want about culture change, phase one and phase two, buying in and staying true to your convictions but when it comes down to it, the experience for the fans is what the NFL is selling.
And fans don’t want to get much past win or lose when it comes to what their experience is like. Win and it’s a lot of fun. Lose, especially a lot, and the fan experience is no fun, even if your guys are playing hard.
“We’re going to have passionate, spirited competitive players on our team, that’s for sure,” Bradley said at his year-end press conference echoing what Caldwell said he expected in the kind of players they’ll acquire through the draft and free agency.
As a reporter, you generally don’t become a “fan” of the teams you’re covering. But it makes your job a lot more pleasant and fun when the teams win, that’s for sure. But having covered the Jaguars since their inception, I’ve learned that you can’t help but be come a “fan” of some of the people you interact with. You want success for certain people. Gus Bradley is one of those. Easy to like, easy to root for because he’s authentic.
“Believe me I’d like to see some victories as well.” Bradley said when I asked him what he’d say to fans at this point in his tenure. “But I have so much conviction that in order to get there, we have to do it this way. We all want what they want but we have to stay true to this in order to get there.”
You can talk about conviction to the media and your staff and even to your boss, but the ticket buying public wants wins, wants a competitive team. That’s where Bradley said it’s coming. That this year was a building block and trust that he and Dave Caldwell know what they’re doing.
“I’m into this ‘step 2’ part of it,” explaining his overall philosophy when it comes to building a winner.
“What it means to the fans is that they (the Jaguars) completed step one, and they must have vision. OK we completed step one and we have a vision on how this thing is going to play out in step two.”
I’ve said a couple of times this year it was different covering this team because they did a lot of things right but still lost because they were just outmanned. That’s why it was like covering the expansion year. It was fun to see the process but eventually that has to pay dividends with wins.
Bradley says he understands that.
‘We’re looking for sustained success and sometimes that’s a process. I know they’re (the fans) competitive too. They can trust that we’ll compete our tails off, that’s for sure.”
So in other words he’s asking for patience.
I asked Tom Coughlin during the expansion year what he was going to do about a certain personnel weakness other teams were exploiting in mid-season.
“These are our players,” Coughlin answered without another syllable. Which was pretty simple to translate. Hey, I can’t cut everybody.
Nobody knows the team was outmanned better than Caldwell and Bradley. And they’re both well aware that they’re on a time clock when it comes to how long owner Shad Khan will listen to talk about culture and conviction without producing victories.
The ‘step 2’ Bradley talks about is upgrading the roster and having everybody understand what they’re trying to accomplish. Not just knowing, but mastering the playbook on offense and defense. Understanding what the coaches are asking you to do and how you and your teammates can make that happen.
Next season we’ll see a better and more competitive Jaguars team. Upgrades on the roster through “modest” free agency and the draft are expected.
But without more wins, Bradley and Caldwell’s seats will be significantly warmer.