Gus Bradley has been an abject failure as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are 154 coaches in NFL history who have coached at least 59 games. Bradly, who fell to 14-45 in his tenure in Jacksonville with Sunday’s loss, ranks 154th with a .237 winning percentage.
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells liked to say that you are what your record says you are. If Parcells is right, then Bradley is the worst head coach in NFL history.
When the Jaguars started this season looking like the same lousy team they were in Bradley’s first three seasons as head coach, Bradley insisted that the team just needs to “Stick to the process.” That’s a common refrain in football, but it raises a big question: What if your process is flawed?
The problem with sticking with the the process is that if you have a bad process, you’re sticking with something that isn’t working. Ask a Detroit Lions fan about that: The Lions stuck with team President Matt Millen far longer than most observers thought they should have, and when they finally fired him in 2008 they were in the midst of the first 0-16 season in NFL history. That’s the problem with sticking with the process. It only works if your process works. And if you keep sticking with your process when your results are as bad as Bradley’s were in his first three seasons (4-12 in his first year, 3-13 in his second year, 5-11 in his third year and now 2-9 in his fourth year), you’re simply setting your franchise back.
It’s also worth noting that the coaches who insist that they have a “process” they must “stick to” often don’t, in fact, stick to their process. Bradley doesn’t trust the process when it suits him to shift gears. This year, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson in the middle of the season (a day after claiming he wouldn’t make any changes to his staff) because the offense wasn’t working out. In 2014, Bradley abandoned a plan to have Blake Bortles spend his entire rookie season on the bench because veteran starter Chad Henne got off to a slow start. Why didn’t Bradley stick with the process then? Probably because for most losing teams, “the process” isn’t as well thought out as they’d like us to believe.
This is not a “fire Gus Bradley” column because I assume it goes without saying that Bradley will be fired at the end of the season, if not before. Instead, this is a column about why all teams really need to scrutinize whether “the process” is working, and not just stick with it for the sake of sticking with it.
Is the process working in Cleveland? It might be: Just because they’re 0-12 this year doesn’t mean the Browns’ analytical approach won’t eventually yield a championship. It’s too early to judge the Browns because a big part of the Browns’ plan this year was to acquire future draft picks in trades. Until we see who the Browns take with those future draft picks, we don’t know if the Browns were smart or dumb to take this approach. On the other hand, no one should just blindly accept the Browns’ process simply because the Moneyball guys seem smart. If you’re a Cleveland fan, you should want to see real, tangible signs of progress next year, not just the kind of “process” talk that Bradley served up in Jacksonville after he went 4-12 in Year 1 and 3-13 in Year 2.
I admired what the Eagles did last year when they realized Chip Kelly wasn’t panning out as their head coach: They fired him, then brought in new people who would undo a lot of his personnel moves by trading away players like Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso. When Kelly was fired, some said the Eagles were being rash, and that Kelly needed more time to build his kind of football team. I didn’t buy that: Kelly wasn’t getting results, so he got fired. That’s the way it works in the NFL, and the Eagles’ new regime is showing progress this year.
There are a few NFL teams, like the Patriots and Seahawks, that have a proven winning philosophy. But there are a lot of NFL teams that like to talk about their “process” despite having little or nothing in the way of tangible results. Maybe we need to be patient with those teams. But in cases like Bradley’s, there’s such a thing as too much patience.
Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:
Colin Kaepernick was brilliant on the field, not so much off it. Kaepernick put up an outstanding effort in defeat yesterday for the 49ers, throwing for 296 yards and rushing for 113 yards and becoming the first player in NFL history to top 295 passing and 110 rushing in the same game. It was a fantastic effort that gives me hope that Kaepernick can once again become a Pro Bowl-quality quarterback in the NFL some day. Unfortunately, Kaepernick was loudly booed in Miami because of some very foolish comments he made about Fidel Castro. If Kaepernick wants to be a great NFL quarterback, I think he has the talent to do it. If he wants to be both a quarterback and an activist, he’d be wise to become more informed.
Sean Payton must hate Gregg Williams. Payton, the Saints’ head coach, lost a year of his career when he was suspended for a bounty program orchestrated by Williams, who was then the Saints’ defensive coordinator. Payton and Williams have rarely spoken of each other publicly since then, but Payton was coaching like a man who wanted to humiliate his former assistant yesterday. Williams is now the Rams’ defensive coordinator, and Payton pulled out all the stops yesterday as the Saints beat the Rams 49-21. The Saints’ seventh and final offensive touchdown came on a trick play 50-yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Willie Snead in the fourth quarter. When you call a trick play 50-yard touchdown with your team already winning 42-21 in the fourth quarter, you’re humiliating your opponent. Payton humiliated Williams yesterday.
Joey Bosa is awesome. Bosa, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, is a one-man wrecking machine for the Chargers. In yesterday’s win over the Texans he hit quarterback Brock Osweiler as he was passing twice, was in on a sack, had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and had seven total tackles. Bosa is already one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and he’s only 21 years old.
Cam Newton is one of the best red zone runners ever. I don’t just mean one of the best red zone running quarterbacks ever. I mean one of the best red zone running players ever. With his rushing touchdown yesterday, Newton now has at least five rushing touchdowns in all six of his NFL seasons. He’s the only player in the NFL who has had at least five rushing touchdowns in each of the last six seasons. Not only has no other quarterback done it, but no running back has done it, either.
Here’s a funny fourth quarter stat. Two NFL teams have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season: The Browns, who lost to the Giants yesterday to fall to 0-12. And the Lions, who beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving to improve to 7-4 and take over sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Jamie Collins’ effort is pathetic. Want to know why Bill Belichick traded Collins to the Browns, even though many on the outside thought Collins was one of the Patriots’ best linebackers? Watch Collins’ lack of effort on an Odell Beckham touchdown in the Browns’ loss to the Giants yesterday. Collins didn’t even try to make a tackle. Collins is a talented player, but a player who refuses to hustle is a player who’s more trouble than his talent is worth.
Justin Tucker’s incredible season continues. Tucker, the Ravens’ kicker, became the first player in NFL history to have three 50-yard field goals in the first half of a game yesterday when he nailed kicks from 52, 54 and 57 yards in the first half. Tucker went 4-for-4 yesterday and is now 27-for-27 on the season. He’s also perfect on extra points and is the only kicker in the league who hasn’t missed a kick this season.
Roberto Aguayo’s terrible season continues. Aguayo, the Buccaneers’ kicker, missed a 48-yard field goal attempt in the first half yesterday against the Seahawks, and his season-high this year is still just 43 yards. There are 31 kickers in the NFL who have made a field goal of at least 45 yards this season, and Aguayo is not one of them. The Bucs traded up into the second round of the draft to select Aguayo, which would be a highly questionable decision even if he were a great kicker. As it is, Aguayo is the worst kicker in the NFL. That draft pick was a huge mistake.
All in all, Matt Barkley was better than expected. Barkley, the onetime USC star whose NFL career has been a major disappointment, got the first start of his career for the Bears on Sunday and actually looked pretty good. The Bears lost, but Barkley was excellent in the fourth quarter and threw what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, if receiver Josh Bellamy hadn’t dropped it in the end zone. The Bears are a team that desperately needs to find the right “process,” because they’re 2-9 in Year 2 of G.M. Ryan Pace and coach John Fox. Perhaps they’ve inadvertently stumbled into a promising young quarterback. Sometimes, good luck is as important as a good process.