On a day that saw an NFL head coach get fired, we also saw an NFL coach be confirmed as returning next season. The Jacksonville Jaguars announced today that head coach Gus Bradley will return as coach in 2016, giving him a fourth year with the franchise.
"I spoke to Gus Bradley today to confirm to him that he will continue as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016," owner Shad Khan said today in a statement released by the team. "It's evident to see how far we've come in many aspects of our game, and Gus deserves a lot of credit for that progress. It's also evident the considerable work that remains to be done to be where we expect to be at this time next season, which is well above where we stand today. And Gus understands that. Dave Caldwell and I also spoke today and we are both confident that Gus will make 2016 the best year of his career. In the meantime, I expect his coaching staff and team to respond favorably to this news in preparation for Houston on Sunday and then begin thinking about what more they can provide next season. We have high ambitions."
This has implications for the Indianapolis Colts, who play in the same division as the Jaguars in the AFC South. During Bradley's tenure with Jacksonville, he has gone 1-5 against the Colts, but the lone win was in their most recent meeting - a 51-16 domination just a few weeks ago. In nearly three years with the team, Bradley has gone 12-35 (.255), an awful record that would get most coaches fired by year three. The Jaguars, however, are opting to be patient and give him another chance, especially since they've seen improvement. They are 5-10 this year, but their five wins are the most since 2011 and the team has been more competitive this year, particularly offensively. They have pieces in place on the offensive side of the football, such as quarterback Blake Bortles, wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, running back T.J. Yeldon, and tight end Julius Thomas. The problem, however, is that the Jaguars' defense has not improved much at all since Bradley's arrival - and, considering his defensive background, that's not a good thing. It is clear that there are high expectations for the team in 2016 - as Shad Khan said that "we have high ambitions." It might, then, take a winning record to keep Bradley around, which would mean significant improvement. Offensively, there's enough there to make you think it could happen, but unless the defensive-minded Bradley and general manager David Caldwell (a former longtime Colts scout) find a way to improve the defense, Jacksonville likely won't have a lot more success next year.
It's an interesting decision by the Jaguars to keep around a coach who has only won one-fourth of his games in three years, but their owner surely sees some of the pieces already in place and thinks that the team can take a significant step forward in 2016. He's letting Gus Bradley return for one final season, but it's clear that expectations are raised in order for him to continue coaching the team beyond that.