JACKSONVILLE – We’ll start with the obvious:
What you read here may not make you happy, or make you feel better. Not if you’re a Jaguars fan wanting answers, or something to make you less frustrated, less angry, or more hopeful.
An editorial won’t make you feel better. A website won’t make you feel better.
Nothing today will make you feel much better.
Not in the short-term.
That’s because what was needed to make Jaguars fans feel better Sunday about the short-term wasn’t necessarily a victory, but something tangible, something showing improvement. A closer margin of defeat. A closer margin at halftime. Productivity. Fewer mistakes.
None of that happened in a 37-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, so the frustration lingered for another week. While what we can say here won’t make you feel better, know this:
The Jaguars are angry, too – players, and coaches. They feel the frustration.
That remains very real, too.
“I trust our head coach, and I trust my teammates,” Jaguars guard
“I know there are things we have to get corrected and I know there are things we need to do better. But at the end of the day, we still have a lot of football left to play.
“I’m not going to sit here and lose faith in what we’re doing when I see the guys out there working their butt off, just like I am. We’re all out here working our butts off during the week, studying film, and being professionals. So, no, it’s going to affect my ability to play another game.”
Those weren’t feel-good words.
Bradley, in his first season as the Jaguars’ head coach, has talked since his January hiring about central themes of competition, of improving every day. They’re themes he brought from the Seattle Seahawks, a team that used that approach in 2010 to reshape the franchise under Head Coach Pete Carroll.
Bradley spent three seasons under Carroll as defensive coordinator, so he saw that franchise develop into one of the NFL’s power teams using the approach, and Bradley believes to his core the approach will work. It is core to his philosophy, and his philosophy is core to him as a coach and person.
Part of his approach, too, has been to remain steadfastly positive throughout – not just throughout the offseason, but through the difficult start, something that has come into question by some fans and observers.
Bradley stayed positive Sunday, and said he has no plans to change. You don’t change philosophy midseason in the NFL. If you do, it wasn’t really a philosophy to begin with.
At the same time, Bradley’s tone changed Sunday, if only a bit. He spent an extensive part of his post-game talk stressing that while he will remain positive, accountability is just as key as competition. The theme of his post-game was essentially that while players must compete, it’s not enough to compete. Competition and effort has to come with execution.
It’s not accurate to say Bradley was any less positive than normal Sunday. But it is accurate to say he seemed more intense on being accountable, and making sure that players know one-sided losses and the mistakes that lead to them aren’t acceptable.
“That’s what I need to be stubborn on,” Bradley said. “I need to be stubborn so that they know when they walk into the building who they’re getting. Who is that? That’s a guy who’s going to find the positives. He’s going to dig and compete like crazy to find a way to make this work, but also a guy who’s going to hold us accountable to things they can control.
“Sometimes, that’s not great. But they know that’s me. We’ll hold each other accountable, but it’s all of it.”
Bradley very much stayed positive about the team, its attitude. He said he continues to tell players that it will come, that they must believe in the system, must work the process, must keep working.
“But we have to take it to the next level,” he said.
That’s the task now, and that will be the theme. That’s what has to happen for the Jaguars to break out of this funk, to get the short-term success players and coaches want.
But what remains more significant is the long-term, and toward that end, players remain strong in their belief of the coaches, in their belief this can turn around. And Bradley made it clear that although he wants more – specifically, better execution – that he believes in the process, in the plan.
So, perhaps, that’s a positive to take from yet another very difficult day, even if in the short-term it only looks like the tiniest, most-distant sliver.
And even if reading it doesn’t make you feel all that much better.