JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since day one, Gus Bradley has preached "get better every day." It's a good mantra for anybody, especially a professional sports team. With all of the time they spend together, practicing, meeting and preparing, they have a lot of chances to get better. But after starting the season with a 0-4 record for the second straight year, where's the "get better" part?
"I can see it," Gus Bradley said this week. "It's a matter of consistency. We have to be consistently better, not just one or two plays. We have to do it over and over and over to get where we want to be." Of course he's right about that, but it doesn't make it any easier to see the team get beat by double digits week in and week out.
"It hurts," Bradley admitted. "In our business you want to be surrounded by passionate people. We love our fans and we want them to be passionate about it like we are. Our guys are taking ownership of it. They don't own it yet but they're starting.
On that point, he's exactly right. Walking through the locker room is a whole different experience than it's been in recent years. Last season it was understood that learning and getting better was the big priority. This year a marked improvement was expected. Maybe not a contender, but one that was in games and looked like they had a chance. So far, that hasn't happened.
But Bradley says he can see on film and in meetings, they're getting closer.
"Friend time is over," the head coach said when asked about the ownership of getting better. "We need to be more of a family, calling each other out. We're getting there. They have to be willing to say to each other, ‘that's not acceptable.'"
So far, the coaching staff has sent the right messages, letting players know that "Do your job" is more than just a saying. Cameron Bradfield and Winston Guy found out the hard way after not performing up to standard. Both were starters at the beginning of the season but when they didn't earn the right to keep that spot, they were released. Mike Brewster found the same thing in the preseason.
In 1995 I once asked Tom Coughlin about the prospects for the second half of the season. It was an expansion year with a roster full of expansion players, some free-agents and some draft picks. "These are our players," Coughlin said in the best four-word answer possible. He didn't elaborate and he didn't have to. The Jaguars players in '95 weren't any better than a 4-12 team. And that's the question 20 years later.
Trying to teach and learn and adapt with a young team do they have the players to get it done? It appears that this roster is better than the one last year and the one the year before that.
So the solution to winning some games and proving that they're better seems pretty simple.