NFL morning after: Gus Bradley and the problem of the process

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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.

51 responses to “NFL morning after: Gus Bradley and the problem of the process

  1. Gus was a bad hire from day 1 and botttom line is that both Gus and GM Dave Caldwell have failed.

    As far as the Brown go? Looking forward to watching those arrogant “moneyball analytics” guys fail miserably.

  2. Think of all the people who were ready to clean house in Miami just a few weeks ago. Jacksonville could do the same thing.

  3. “Cam Newton is one of the best red zone runners ever.”

    When you talk about how great a “QB” is at running the ball, it usually means he’s not good at what he’s supposed to do, pass the ball.

    Examples, Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor.

  4. I disagree, I think Gus Bradley was the perfect hire at the time. The team was gutted and he was brought in to change the culture/attitude and take the hit for the coming 2 years of losses.

    By year 3, they wanted to see progress and, marginally, they did. Losing the #1 pick (Dante Fowler)at his first practice probably helped Gus stay. This year, Year 4, is the disaster and now he must go.

    OTOH, GM Caldwell has had mixed results and deserves a little e time, IMO. Bortles looks like a bust, and all you Denver guys were right- Julius Thomas is soft and a waste of money (Malik Jackson, though, looks like the real deal).

  5. I disagree a bit with jagsfan1 only on Caldwell. Compared to what we had with Gene Smith and Shack Harris, Caldwell has made great strides in improving the personnel on this team. There have been some that haven’t worked out: Joeckel hasn’t been the O-line force we expected, and the jury is still out on Bortles. But you can’t deny the talent of most of the remaining guys who have come in since Caldwell took over (A. Robinson, Hurns, Ramsey, T. Smith, Colvin, etc.).

    So the issue again becomes talent versus coaching. As I watch another one slip away in Buffalo yesterday, it cemented it for me once and for all. Rex was right: this is the best 2-win team in the league. If that’s what Bradley has been coaching toward, he’s a success.

    But we fans (especially those of us who own season tickets) have been patient for way, way too long.

  6. I remember reading plenty of comments on this site that said Bosa would be a bust because he was holding out. I wonder where all those people are now. Probably posting comments blaming Pryor when the Browns lose or something, with no sense of their ignorance.

  7. The problem with Cam Cheating is he is only a running back who thinks he can throw. He’s rather pedestrian as a passer. And the more he runs, the more he becomes a target to be pummeled – and I’m all for that.

  8. “Not even if he’s released” Tebow was the ultimate results vs process guy. Weirdo kept winning, & actually threw better when he wasn’t micromanaged. The process of most coaches is to have a “dependable” quarterback and to award practice success. Denver got rid of Tebow only to have Manning panic typically in the playoffs, and only when they built a “Tebow-carrying” team (defense and running game) did Denver win the Super Bowl, with Manning playing worse than Tebow ever did. Now they coulda had a Tebow with 5 years learning under Elway and Manning, but they have a flimsy hope and a prayer with Simien and Lynch.

    Meanwhile, the Jets and Jags are floundering, though I’m sure those anti-Tebow plans will pan out any day.

  9. I wouldn’t say Payton ran up the score or embarrassed his former assistant because there was 10:15 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. In the NFL, a 3 TD lead with 10 minutes remaining isn’t a guaranteed win, especially when you have a defense as bad as New Orleans Saints!

  10. .
    The relentless PFT attacks on Roberto Aguayo are starting to border on racist. Yes, he is of Mexican decent. However, let’s take an objective look :

    1. GM Jason Licht was the one who traded into the late second round to draft Aguayo. He’s responsible. Where’s the criticism of Licht?

    2. He’s a 22 year old, in his first NFL season. Most first year players aren’t even contributing at this point, yet Aguayo is already adjudicated as an abject failure.

    3. Kickers go through ups and downs. Aguayo isn’t the only one struggling. Look no further than Cincinnati, Minnesota or New England where, once automatic, Steven Gostkowski, couldn’t kick the ball into the ocean from the end of a pier.

    4. If one wants to talk about drafting failures, let’s take a look at media darling, Jeff Fisher. He’s had more high draft choices than any other team in recent years and has produced a perennial last place team. Why not compare Tampa’s recent draft record vs the Rams? Which team has the better future? It’s highly doubtful the the fortunes of the Buccaneers are solely dependent on the leg of Roberto Aguayo.

    .
    .

  11. ….Oh, it must be a the week were everyone bad-mouths Roberto Aquayo. You do realize the kid has won two games for the Bucs this year? Yes, he’s not hitting 100% (yet!) but he’s career is young and he’s solid……..

  12. Most Jag fans have apathy towards the Jags. It is now to the point where people are stating to not win. Higher draft pick…i counter…how has that worked out so far. The Jags have had top 10 picks in what seems forever.

  13. Gus Bradley is a terrible head coach, possibly the worst in NFL history.

    He should have been fired at the end of last season. But the Jaguars kept him, when almost no other franchise would have.

    He should have been fired after the Tennessee game earlier this season when his team quit on national television. But the Jaguars kept him, when no other franchise would have.

    The biggest issue in Jacksonville is that they have an owner who has not shown that winning is important.

    That is why they are a joke of a franchise. And will be until a complete philosophical change takes place.

  14. ProFootballRealignment says:
    Nov 28, 2016 6:13 AM
    The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

  15. Simple way to make sure that chump gets fired is for Jags fans to quit supporting the team financially. That’d of course require people to show some will power so better they just whine about how the owner doesn’t care while giving said owner their money and making the owner have zero incentive to improve the team.

  16. ProFootballRealignment says:
    Nov 28, 2016 6:13 AM
    The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

    *********************************************************

    6). We’ll have to look at the tape

  17. “Jamie Collins‘ effort is pathetic.”

    As a Patriots fan… I sometimes am perplexed by some of the things that happen with personnel decisions BB makes … in the end BB proves to be correct again and again. Collins was a bad draft decision and cutting him loose was admitting as such!

    Having a motivated , engaged, and smart Collins in the middle of the Patriots defense would have greatly improved the Patriots playoff chances… instead there has been a domino effect degradation of talent on the Pats D.

  18. the eagles nearly hired gus bradley when kelly initially said no. bradley was their 2nd choice. he was the new head coach darling that year based upon his success as seatt’s def coor.

    in a way eagles fans should thank kelly for allowing the eagles to avoid the gus bradley train wreck.

  19. I don’t really believe in the whole “rebuilding” process. Plenty of teams have gone from last place to playoffs in just one year (Indy in 2012, KC in 2013, Miami in 2007, etc.) When you go 4-12 your first season then 3-13 your second season, you should be fired. By that point, your players accept losing and won’t play hard to find ways to win, no matter how much talent may be on the roster. Gus Bradley has been there far too long

  20. ProFootballRealignment says:
    Nov 28, 2016 6:13 AM
    The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

    *********************************************************

    6). We’ll have to look at the tape
    *********************************************
    7). In this league…

  21. Tennessee definitely would be worse if Ken Whisemhunt were still around. I have to believe Jacksonville would be somewhere around .500 if Doug Marrone were the HC

  22. Green Bay would welcome Gus Bradley to rebuild their defense….once they get players.

    Ted? Ted? Ted!

    Wake up, Ted!

  23. The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

    *********************************************************

    6). We’ll have to look at the tape
    ——————————————————–

    7. Everybody has to give 110%.

  24. laserw says:
    Nov 28, 2016 7:54 AM

    The problem with Cam Cheating is he is only a running back who thinks he can throw. He’s rather pedestrian as a passer. And the more he runs, the more he becomes a target to be pummeled – and I’m all for that.
    _____
    I’m calling you and the rest of your delusional lot out. Prove the cheating. Use facts, not some lame line about his daddy asking for money from a school Cam didn’t go to. Real facts please.

    Hint: You won’t find it. The NCAA spent a year looking for it, and they couldn’t find it. Neither will you.

    And once you realize that Cam has never cheated on a football field or in order to get onto a football field, will you promise to drop this nonsense and leave 2010 in the past?

  25. Jags suck, but their rookie 3rd round pick Yannik Ngakuoe is hands down the better player than Bosa. 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 int, 2 passes defended and 18 tackles. Bosa only has him in tackles and only by 4.

  26. rexdarteskimospy says:
    Nov 28, 2016 10:20 AM
    The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

    *********************************************************

    6). We’ll have to look at the tape
    ——————————————————–

    7. Everybody has to give 110%
    =================

    8.) …unless it isn’t.

  27. Bradley – Yes, he’s bad, but I can’t ever fully believe there will ever be a coach worse than Rich Kotite. I am SO GLAD Jerry Richardson got over whatever illness he was havng and hired Dom Capers to be our first coach instead.

    Browns – You can talk about how much you love or hate the Moneyball theories all you want, but no team is going anywhere without at least a decent QB. Until they have one, they will struggle. You have to give them credit for admitting everything else in Cleveland hailed, so instead are trying something completely new.

    Cam – the hits to the head are an issue, but the bigger one is injuries. Not having Michael Oher has been a big loss. Yesterday we also didn’t have Ryan Kahlil, Kuechly and Mario Addison, who has turned into a sack machine. Our kicker sucks too. He gagged at Denver and New Orleans and at home vs. Tampa and KC. Then yesterday he yanked his 2nd XP and we spent the rest of the day chasing points. He just makes the PATs and the Raiders winning kick only forces overtime. Our franchise has still never had 2 consecutive seasons with at least 9 wins. I’m hoping we can win out and change that, but our season now officially ends with week 17.

  28. Bench Blake Bortles. He has the worst mechanics I’ve ever seen from a QB. His football acumen is on par with most 3rd graders. And he can’t get past his first progression. Also to boot he’s the only QB I’ve ever seen throw two interceptions that bounced off someone’s foot. He should have been benched 5 weeks ago, but somehow Bradley left him out there to die in the cold. Although it’s too late, Bench Blake Bortles, he sucks!

  29. so who takes the Jax job?!? KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN…..

    overpay somebody like Gruden or Jimmy or Lovey who at least has some credibility.

  30. “First player in NFL history to top 295 yards passing and 110 yards rushing in the same game”

    What an oddly specific stat to make Kaepernick sound like some sort of hero. Sure, he lost and his team is on a 10 game losing streak — longest in franchise history — but he really tears up that garbage time. Just like how people in his socialist paradises tear up actual garbage looking for food.

  31. “so who takes the Jax job?!?

    overpay somebody like Gruden or Jimmy or Lovey who at least has some credibility.”

    ——————————————————-

    Kinda hard for Gruden to have much credibility considering he A) won a Super Bowl with the team that Tony Dungy had built, and B) lost what little credibility he had when he joined MNF’s broadcast booth.

    And Jimmy….who? Johnson? He retired from coaching football over 15 years ago. Why would he ever want to get back into it?

    And Lovie Smith? What credibility does he have as a coach at all?

  32. The sad reality is that the NFL is an old-boys network. Guys who are consistently average manage to stay head coaches, and get more coaching opportunities. But at the same time, GMs get one shot, and never get a job again. In all seriousness, some fool team is going to hire Josh McDaniels to be their HC this offseason….why? What has changed since Denver? He got 4 more years with Brady…that’s it. Their system is great, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to run a team any better.

    Where is the new blood coming from in the coaching ranks? Most of these guys are going to be keeling over from the wear and tear on them physically, especially as they reach or pass 70 years old. When Gus gets fired, or John Fox, or whoever, where is the replacement coming from? Another re-tread? Some ridiculous hope off a coaching tree of a successful coach? The college coach who has aspirations of making it in the big league?

    My guess is it will be all of the usual suspects, which is why there are between 5-9 jobs open every year.

  33. Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso are both playing at a high level in Miami. Kiko has returned to pro bowl form and Max has been there when it mattered. The Dolphins are 7-4 and philly is 5-5. Maybe they were a bit rash.

  34. maust1013 says:
    Nov 28, 2016 10:36 AM
    rexdarteskimospy says:
    Nov 28, 2016 10:20 AM
    The most overused expressions in sports in 2016:
    1) It is what it is.
    2) The Narrative.
    3) The Process.
    4) Salty.
    —————————————–

    Sorry, no list is complete without leading off with a

    5). At the end of the day…

    *********************************************************

    6). We’ll have to look at the tape
    ——————————————————–

    7. Everybody has to give 110%
    =================

    8.) …unless it isn’t.

    =================

    9.) The optics aren’t good on this….

  35. Bucs beat a team (resoundingly) that no one gave them a chance to beat, but all you speak about is the kicker who missed one kick….

  36. The process? The process that I have a bigger problem with is the process of hiring head coaches. Everyone thinks guys that were successful coordinators on highly talented teams, will somehow turn into successful head coaches on much less talented teams. It rarely works, yet we do the same thing over and over and over. Isn’t that how you describe insanity? We all must be insane. By the way, how’s Jack Del Rio doing in Oakland? Didn’t he get fired and replaced by Gus Bradley?

  37. After the draft this year I was thinking of the Jags as a team on the rise with the Raiders and Vikings.

    Now obviously the Vikings took a big step back and the Jags never got there.

    Cowboys and Raiders are on the rise right now. That Cowboys o-line is the MVP of the league as a unit. Not saying Zeke isn’t good, but he wouldn’t be having the season he’s had on any other team.

  38. tonebones said:

    “By the way, how’s Jack Del Rio doing in Oakland? Didn’t he get fired and replaced by Gus Bradley?”

    No, he got fired and was replaced in the interim by Mel Tucker. Del rio then spend three seasons as DC in Denver.

    Khan was announced as the new owner the day after Jack was fired. After he took over in January, he made the mistake of listening to Gene Smith, who somehow convinced him to hire Mike Mularkey as head coach.

    The team went 2-12 under Mularkey. He and Smith we fired and Gus was hired.

    So assuming Gus can maybe squeeze out one more win this season, he will leave here NOT with the worst record of any Jaguars head coach.

    But leave here, I’m sure he will.

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