The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to be their head coach. Under Bradley, the Seahawks defense allowed just 15.3 points per game, a league low.
The Jaguars, who fired now former head coach Mike Mularkey after one year, are coming off a 2-14 season in 2012, their worst in franchise history.
Filed to ESPN: Former Seahawks DC Gus Bradley has accepted the head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 17, 2013
Consider a trend bucked off of the hiring season horse, albeit briefly. Of the eight head coach vacancies that were created beginning on Black Monday, seven have now been filled, with Bradley, Marc Trestman, and Chip Kelly the most recent hires over the past two days. And of those seven hires, six of them have been coaches whose roots come from the offensive side of the ball.
In an era when secondaries are handcuffed by increasing restrictions and both long-armed and especially mobile quarterbacks are thriving, that trend isn’t remotely shocking. The teams that have hired former offensive coordinators either have a struggling or developing quarterback who needs to be groomed (Cleveland, San Diego), or simply a sputtering offense in need of a new direction (Buffalo).
Now Bradley is the exception, which is both understandable, yet still slightly confusing.
Yes, the Jaguars’ defense was generally horrid this year, so it makes sense that a strong defensive mind would be courted to correct that problem. They ranked 30th in average total yards allowed per game (380.5), which inevitably led to a poor ranking in points allowed per game too (29th while allowing 27.8 points per game). They also had a league-low 20 sacks, so at a core fundamental level, this defense needs a significant improvement, and a guy who can both develop and identify talent is the right guy for that job.
But hypothetically let’s pretend Bradley is successful in that endeavor, and while the Jags’ defense won’t become a league-leading one in just a single season, a significant leap is still made. Neato, right? Sure, but there’s still a massive problem on the other side of the ball, and a decision to be made with Blaine Gabbert.
As awful as Gabbert has been during the majority of his starts, jettisoning a first-round pick (and a top 15 pick) from just 2011 is not a desirable direction. That’s how franchises are crippled, and indeed new Jags general manager David Caldwell said he has no intention of pursuing such a move, saying in his first press conference that Gabbert is still young and a little raw, and his talent can be massaged. He’s had two different offensive coordinators over two seasons, and now the man in charge of a new coaching staff and thus also tasked with the Gabbert project is…defensive-minded?
That’s what made this such a difficult decision for the Jaguars, with their gaping holes so widespread, and in need of immediate attention. It’s hard to question the Bradley hire too heavily, because Jacksonville’s defense is clearly in need of attention, and he just turned a very young unit in Seattle into one of the league’s best in multiple areas (rookie Bobby Wagner had 140 tackles, while Chris Clemons finished with a career high 11.5 sacks). But without the ability to move the ball with any consistency, the efforts of that possibly improved defense will be wasted.
We’ve seen and will continue to see what 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been able to do with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, and an underachieving Michael Crabtree. If there was a hope to save Gabbert and do it quickly, it may have rested with him.