Week 17’s showdown against the Green Bay Packers could be a defining moment for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the National Football League in 1995 as an expansion franchise. At first life was for the Jaguars was good as from 1996-1999, they made four consecutive playoff appearances including two trips to the AFC Championship Game. However since 2000, things haven’t been as easy for the Jaguars as they only made two playoff appearances with the last one coming in 2007. Gus Bradley is in his fourth season as the Jaguars head coach and things have not gotten better for the team on his watch. Under Bradley, the Jags have lost at least 11 games in each season, and after their 2-5 start here in 2016, they appear to be headed down that path once again. This past Thursday night Jacksonville suffered a 36-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The final score didn’t captivate how the Jaguars were dominated which led some people to question whether or not that it was time to move on from Bradley. However Jaguars owner Shad Khan is sticking by Bradley, but I doubt that this will be the case that much longer.
Under Bradley, the Jaguars have one of the youngest teams in the National Football League, but they have been unable to establish themselves.
In 2013, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel became the first player selected by Bradley as Jaguars head coach. Joeckel was taken second overall in the National Football League Draft by Jacksonville and he was expected anchor their offensive line. But the injury bug has bitten Joeckel as he has only made all 16 starts in a season once while he is heading down the road of being a draft bust. The following year saw the Jags select quarterback Blake Bortles in the first round. Bortles became a starter in his rookie season, and although that he set a single-season record with 4,468 passing yards last season for the franchise, he has yet to take that next step as a quarterback. Last year Bortles led the NFL in interceptions with 18, and in nearly three seasons he has been sacked 123 times. In 2015, the Jags used the third overall pick of the draft on defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. But on Fowler’s first day of practice with Jacksonville, he suffered a torn ACL which forced him to miss the entire 2015 NFL season. Fowler has returned to action this season as he has 13 tackles and 2 sacks. And like Fowler, the jury is still out on the Jaguars first-round pick from 2016 in defensive back Jalen Ramsey who has 24 tackles while he has yet to tally an interception.
When Bortles threw for 4,468 yards last season, wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson each tallied more than 1,000 yards receiving which led to higher expectations for the Jags heading into the 2016 National Football League season. But the young team hasn’t been able to answer the bell. And as the AFC South is arguably the worst division in the NFL this year, some signs of life could potentially develop some optimism for them in regards to making the postseason; however that hasn’t been the case.
Of Jacksonville’s five losses this year, three have come at home. And after Khan has done his due diligence to revive the team’s fan base in North Florida which includes more amenities at EverBank Field, a fancy pool and a huge video board aren’t going to cover up the fact that the Jaguars are struggling to win football games.
Under Bradley, the Jags have yet to figure out how to consistently win in the National Football League and that is what indeed separates that haves from the have nots. But whereas Khan may not be open to making a coaching change right now, I don’t see any way that Bradley will still be the Jaguars head coach in 2017 without some drastic improvement on the field in their final nine games this year.
The Jaguars have never hired a head coach that was previously a head coach in the National Football League and I expect that trend to continue should they decide part with Bradley. And if that is the case, it could mark the end of Bortles’ time with the Jags as well.
After this year Bortles has one year left on his rookie deal, and a new head coach will more than likely want “his guy” at quarterback. The Jaguars have to make a decision on Bortles during the off-season as to whether or not they want to give him an extension, and if he keeps on the path that he is currently going, I doubt that this will happen. This past Saturday, the Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson who has now become the scapegoat for the team’s issues, while also putting Bortles on notice as following their loss to Tennessee, they were 21st in the National Football League in total offense.
In the AFC South, the Titans, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts all find themselves floating around .500, and it is only Jacksonville that has been unable to show signs of life and get into the divisional race. The Jags still have four divisional games remaining this year, while they have seven contests against teams that currently have winning records. For a very long time the Jaguars have been two years away from being two years away, and as another coaching change does appear to be in the cards for them, there is no end in sight as far as the losing goes in Northern Florida.