(AP) – The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Gus Bradley on Sunday, ending one of the least successful coaching tenures in NFL history.
Owner Shad Khan announced the decision following a 21-20 loss at Houston, in which the Jaguars (2-12) blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter. Khan considered the move in late October, following a debacle at Tennessee on national television, but opted to keep Bradley for seven more weeks. During that time, Jacksonville lost to backup quarterbacks Tom Savage (Houston), Paxton Lynch (Denver) and Nick Foles (Kansas City).
Bradley went 14-48 in four seasons in Jacksonville, the worst winning percentage (.225) of any NFL coach with at least 60 games.
The Jaguars were supposed to be considerably improved this season, time for Bradley’s always-positive approach to pay off with a much-improved roster. Khan spent big in free agency for the second straight year and felt he had all the pieces in place for a playoff push. Even before the free-agent frenzy, Khan said a winning record was “everybody’s reasonable expectation at this point.”
Instead, the Jaguars have lost nine in a row. It’s the longest, single-season losing streak in franchise history.
“I don’t know, really, for anybody in this locker room how much more frustrated you can be,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “Once again we had all the opportunities in the world, chances in the fourth quarter to score, and we just don’t do it.”
Bradley flew home on the team charter. General manager Dave Caldwell will name an interim coach for the final two games Monday. It’s likely to be offensive line coach Doug Marrone or defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker.
“I thanked Gus Bradley today for his commitment to the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past four seasons,” Khan said in a statement. “As anyone close to our team knows, Gus gave his staff and players literally everything he had. Our players competed for Gus and I know they have great respect for him, as do I.
“Gus also represented the Jaguars, the Jacksonville community and the NFL in nothing less than a first-class manner as our head coach. That counts for a lot. It is unfortunately evident that we must make a change. I thought it would be best to do it immediately after today’s result so Gus can step away, relax and regroup with his family during the Christmas and holiday season.”
Khan added that he and Caldwell will “be charged with exploring all options to hire the best head coach possible to lead what I feel is an extremely talented team and reward a very loyal and patient fan base in Jacksonville.”
A former Seattle defensive coordinator who had no head coaching experience when Khan hired him in 2013, Bradley spent his first two years in rebuilding mode. Bradley and Caldwell overhauled a talent-starved roster, revamping it through the draft and then supplementing it in free agency. The Jaguars spent more than $350 million (nearly $150 million guaranteed) the last two years in free agency, bringing in an influx of starters who were supposed to make a difference.
Instead, the Jaguars showed little improvement, at least in the win-loss column.
Bortles was mostly a mess, his sloppy mechanics causing inaccuracy every week. It didn’t help that receivers dropped passes, tight end Julius Thomas was unreliable and the offensive line was far from stout.
Jacksonville made a huge jump defensively, becoming a top-10 unit thanks partly to the addition of defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey. But the defense lacked a consistent pass rush and failed to create turnovers. Couple those shortcomings with Bortles’ penchant for interceptions and fumbles, and it’s no surprise the Jaguars ranked last in the NFL in turnover margin.
Bradley kept his team playing hard down the stretch, even after it secured a sixth consecutive losing season. The Jaguars became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit losses six straight years, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13).
Although Bradley will be remembered for his indefensible record, slow starts in each of his four years and an inability to win at home were major stumbling blocks.
Jacksonville went 5-25 in September and October under Bradley, digging huge holes and essentially falling out of playoff contention before Thanksgiving. And the Jags failed to find success at home, going 7-20 at EverBank Field. They are 0-6 there this season.
Jacksonville’s home finale is Saturday against Tennessee (8-6). Although the Jaguars technically won a home game in London in October, they have never gone winless in Jacksonville in a season.