Bradley's final game as Jaguars coach was depressingly fitting. His team blew a 20-8 second half lead in Houston to a backup quarterback, while franchise quarterback Blake Bortles threw for only 92 yards. The Jaguars are 2-12 on the season and Bradley finishes in Jacksonville with a 14-48 record over three-plus seasons. His .226 win percentage is the worst in the Super Bowl era among coaches with a minimum of 50 games.
"I thanked Gus Bradley today for his commitment to the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past four seasons," owner Shad 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."
Khan mentioned that general manager Dave Caldwell "agreed and will now be charged with exploring all options to hire the best head coach possible" to lead the Jaguars. Khan also mentioned the team's "extremely talented" roster, another sign of support for Caldwell. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Caldwell will name an interim head coach on Monday, and added Bradley was on the team flight back to Jacksonville.
This could be seen as an act of mercy for Bradley. In a statement after last season, Khan said that Bradley knew the Jaguars had to be "well above" where they finished a season ago when the team finished 5-11. The Jaguars spent big money in free agency and instead took a step back. It was only a matter of time before Bradley was fired, and Sunday's collapse provided a good moment for a clean break.
Bradley came to Jacksonville known for his energy and the defensive principles he learned as defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll in Seattle. It took four seasons, but Bradley's defense finally started to show strides this year. Entering Sunday, they were fifth in yards allowed and 15th in FootballOutsiders' metrics despite struggling to force turnovers. The problem this season was the offense. The team fired offensive coordinator Greg Olsen on October 29, but that didn't change Bortles' fortunes. He has been among the worst starters in football. Last season's decent offense proved to be the exception after the Jaguars finished dead last in points scored in Bradley/Bortles' first two seasons together.
The next head coach in Jacksonville will help decide Bortles' future, but it's hard to imagine the Jaguars entering next offseason with him as an unquestioned starting quarterback. The team has a talented trio of wide receivers and some young defensive players to build around like linebacker Telvin Smith and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. It will be a compelling job for some aspiring coach, but perhaps believing this Jaguars roster is "extremely talented" is part of the problem. They have won 14 games over four seasons and have made little tangible progress since Khan fired Mike Mularkey four years ago. We've heard about this Jaguars talent plenty, and we believed in it more than once, but an honest accounting says this has been one of the very worst teams in football for five seasons running.
It's hard to imagine Bradley recovering from this stint to become an NFL head coach again. He will be paid by the Jaguars through 2017, so he could conceivably take next season off before returning to the sideline. He should enjoy a long second career as a defensive coordinator or assistant to a head coach.