Gus Bradley’s loyalty to quarterback Blake Bortles was admirable, but it’s what ultimately cost him his job.
After the Jacksonville Jaguars extended their longest losing streak in franchise history to 9 games with a 21-20 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon, the organization decided to part ways with their head coach. Bradley’s exit was his own fault, after he put all his trust in Bortles on their way to a 2-12 record.
Bradley had the chance to give backup QB, Chad Henne a shot to turn things around, instead he watched his team suffer another humiliating loss to a backup QB in Tom Savage, and the revitalized Texans. Savage, who hadn’t played in more than 2 years, completed 23 of 36 passes for 260 yards and cued the Texans’ rally from a 20-8 third-quarter deficit. Instead, the Jaguars watched their grip on the game slip away once again, with Bortles completing just 12 out of his 28 passes for an uninspiring 96 yards.
Bortles didn’t always appear to be this horrible, especially when he set a couple of Jaguars franchise records in 2015 with 4,428 passing yards and 35 passing touchdowns. Along with his franchise records, Bortles also did lead the league in interceptions with 18. Bradley should have been able to realize that Bortles was just an accident waiting to happen, which has certainly been the case this season. Through 14 games, Bortles already has 20 turnovers, the most of any player in the NFL. To make things even worse, he’s registered 3 of his 11 career pick-sixes this season, while only managing to secure his 10th career win.
In his first interview after getting fired, Bradley stated that he did not regret sticking with quarterback Blake Bortles, who is currently 29th in passer rating (75.8) and tied for second in interceptions (16).
“I’m a big Blake Bortles fan, obviously,” said Bradley. “Did he not meet his own expectations or what was set out? I would say no. But I believe in Blake and I’ve said that many times. This season really stings. It really hurts. My hope is that the sting hurts enough that it really challenges them to go in another direction. I think you’re going to see that from Blake. I expect nothing but good things to happen for this team with him as their leader.”
Coupled with his sloppy mechanics, Bortles has also been making mindless mistakes that he wasn’t making last season. Yes, he did rack up his fair share of turnovers last season, but this season it looks like he’s regressed as far back as his rookie year. Instead of trusting his entire offence, he’s focusing in on some players like Allen Robinson with little success, which has led to him missing wide open receivers for positive yardage.
Bortles has shown signs of being too tentative, while in other games he’s been forcing plays when the offence isn’t giving him anything. Instead of remaining patient and allowing the game to come to him, he’s been giving his opponents an advantage with his reckless play, while robbing his own team of any momentum.
The way Bortles has played at times can really make one scratch their own head looking for answers. In a game against the Houston Texans in Week 5, Bortles probably threw the worst and most bizarre interception many have ever seen. It’s what ultimately helped the Jaguars lose their 4th straight game at the time.
— Conrad Garcia (@ConradBuckets) November 13, 2016
Bortles has come up short for the Jaguars many times, with his INT at the end of the game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 also standing as an example. Bortles has proven that whenever he’s put in a bad situation, he’ll simply make it worse by trying to force plays out of desperation.
As the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Bortles is expected to be a difference maker and a capable field general for the Jaguars. Instead, he’s proven that he might in fact be a worse option than the Jaguars’ backup in Henne.
Replacing Bortles has been a topic of conversation around the organization, but it was never something that coach Bradley gave in to, no matter how much others pleaded. After the Jags’ Week 11 lost at the hands of the Detroit Lions, CBS analyst and former NFL linebacker, Bart Scott didn’t hold back his criticism towards the Jaguars QB.
“He’s a coach killer,” Scott told CBS Sports Radio’s Damon Amendola on Monday. “Blake Bortles will get you fired, man. This team would probably be … at least 6-5 with Chad Henne – he’s good in spurts.”
If calling for the journeymen backup to suit up as the starter wasn’t bad enough, Scott’s rant wasn’t done there.
“Hell, if they traded for Matt Moore from the Dolphins they’d be 6-5,” he said. “Blake Bortles is horrible, man. He’s a turnover machine and he gets all these fluff yards [late in the game when the Jaguars are down big].”
Bradley was 14-48 (.226) in 3-plus seasons with the Jaguars, giving him the second worst winning percentage of any coach to have appeared in 50 games in the history of the NFL. Bradley should have realized that Bortles wasn’t his only option, especially with him only completing 56% of his passes for 1,958 yards and 13 touchdowns with 9 interceptions throughout their current 9-game losing streak. His numbers are still worse than Henne’s last 9-game stretch as a starter, where he completed 59.2% of his passes for 2070 yards and 13 touchdowns with 8 interceptions while at least guiding his team to 3 wins.
Despite Bortles’ inability to guide the Jaguars to victory, Bradley stuck with him as the starter while the Jaguars continued to slide down the worst division in football. He was repeatedly asked if he would sit Bortles for a game to gain a different perspective, but each time Bradley said that it was something he wasn’t even considering. Instead, he allowed Bortles to only make the offence worse, with his prized receiver in Robinson going from a Pro Bowl player to a second option. He and Bortles never clicked this season, and since meeting with their newly appointed offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, after Week 7, Robinson has only caught 3 touchdown passes.
Bradley’s allegiance to Bortles made some sense, as one of the most important things Bortles wanted from his coach was unwavering loyalty. It was clearly an important part of their relationship, but it’s what ultimately blindsided Bradley from remembering he needed to have the best possible product on the field to ultimately keep his very own job.
All stats for this article are from NFL.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com
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