PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Gus Bradley’s biggest regret is not sticking around to see the Jacksonville Jaguars win consistently.
Bradley met with local media for more than 35 minutes the day after he was fired as head coach. He held court inside a conference room at the Sawgrass Marriott, going into detail about his professional shortcomings — he acknowledged to feeling like “you can save everybody” — and how he broke the news to his family.
He expressed no hard feelings toward the franchise and got emotional near the end of the session. He sat in complete silence for 15 seconds when asked his one regret from a four-year failure.
“I’d just like to be here with this team when it’s successful,” Bradley said. “The regret I have is not seeing these players (win). When you go through something that’s hard and then you come through it and you have success and you say, ‘That’s why we do it. Look at where it took you.'”
Owner Shad Khan fired Bradley following the team’s ninth consecutive loss Sunday, ending one of the least successful coaching tenures in NFL history. Bradley went 14-48 in four seasons in Jacksonville, the worst winning percentage (.225) of any NFL coach with at least 60 games.
General manager Dave Caldwell made offensive line coach Doug Marrone the team’s interim coach for the final two games. Marrone went 15-17 in two seasons (2013-14) as Buffalo’s head coach.
This was supposed to be Jacksonville’s year, the time for Bradley’s always-positive approach to pay dividends with a drastically improved roster. Khan spent big in free agency for the second straight offseason and felt he had all the pieces in place for a playoff push. Khan even said a winning record was “everybody’s reasonable expectation.”
Bradley thought the season would go much differently, too.
“I kept envisioning that part of it, where this city would go wild and the players would be connected with the following, so it wasn’t like 50 percent of the fans hated our players and 50 percent liked them,” he said. “One hundred percent liked them. They connected with their fans. They connected with the following. They played good football. They won. They didn’t have an enemy. They had no enemies; and everybody was pulling for them.
“I regret (that) because I do believe that’s going to happen. I regret not being here to see that.”
Khan let Bradley go after he spoke to the media Sunday afternoon. Bradley’s phone battery died as he was telling his wife the news. He ended up getting back in touch with her and then flew home on the team charter.
Bradley used the return trip to thank players, assistant coaches and staff members.
“I think everybody knows the head coach always gets the blame, but he’s not the only one that made mistakes,” defensive tackle Roy Miller said Monday outside the facility. “Everyone is trying to find a reason, an excuse. We’ve been trying to do that all year. It (upsets me) because as a player you have a lot of responsibility. You hate to see the head man take it all.”
Bradley took more than 30 questions and didn’t sound bitter. He would have preferred to have a final team meeting, but understood Khan’s decision to move on.
“Everybody has their own beliefs,” he said. “I try not to be bitter because I think when you’re bitter it just breeds negativity, and when you breed negativity it brings people down. So I always challenge our team, `Don’t let your spirit become bitter because a bitter spirit will bring people down and that’s not what we’re about.’ So I guess I have to make sure that I’m not becoming that person.”
Some thought Caldwell also would be shown the door, but Khan said 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.”
Bradley, not surprisingly, said he would gladly talk to his potential successors.
“It’ll be a long conversation and it’ll be a very, very positive conversation,” Bradley said. “I’m telling you, this organization, with this ownership and this front office and support staff, is unbelievable. It’s easy for me to say, right, when I’m hired and I’m a part of it, but I just got let go yesterday.
“It’s genuine. I’m telling you it’s genuine. This place is phenomenal. The owner is phenomenal. So, it’s a really, really great opportunity and the players, I think you’re coming into a situation where this is a hungry, chip-on-the-shoulder team, so if a coach was looking at this you’d say, pretty good situation.”