JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Already in the midst of a difficult season, the Jacksonville Jaguars and coach Gus Bradley got a sobering dose of reality on the eve of what was expected to be a rare happy occasion.
Bradley’s 85-year-old father, Roy, died Sunday night in Zumbrota, Minn., of what appeared to be natural causes. As a result, Bradley made plans to head north for the funeral instead of accompanying the Jaguars on their charter flight to London for their game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker will fill in for him on an interim basis, although the Jaguars expect Bradley to rejoin the team later this week.
“Coach Bradley and I have talked about head coaching topics,” said Walker, who spent four years as a head coach at New Mexico State before being hired in January by the Jaguars. “So when he asked me to fill in, I told him I had no problem because I know this is a sensitive situation for him right now.”
Bradley, 47, was one of six children born to Roy Bradley and his wife, Gloria. His two sisters, Jody and Lynne, attended the Jaguars’ 24-6 loss Sunday to the San Diego Chargers, although it was unclear whether he joined the two of them on the same flight to Minnesota.
Walker said Bradley’s absence, for however long that may be, would not cause a disruption of the team’s schedule of meetings and practices before the first of four games they will play at Wembley Stadium over the next four years.
“He could have closed his eyes and just picked any coach,” Walker said. “I think all the coaches are capable of doing what he asked me to do. I just want to make sure I don’t embarrass him.”
Walker did not address injuries or whether Chad Henne would remain the starting quarterback against the 49ers. The loss to the Chargers dropped the Jaguars to 0-7, and they rank last in the NFL in total offense, rushing offense and defense against the run.
Although Henne threw for 318 yards, almost half of those came in the fourth quarter with the Jaguars down by 18 points. The game was the third he has started this season because of injuries to Blaine Gabbert, who has missed the last two games because of a strained left hamstring.
Walker’s defensive backs have accounted for just one interception through seven games, and the 15 touchdown passes allowed are tied for the most in the NFL. Philip Rivers completed his first 14 passes against the Jaguars, including a 27-yard score to wide receiver Eddie Royal.
Walker made it clear he was deferring to offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and defensive coordinator Bob Babich on how the Jaguars could get better on both sides of the ball.
“I’m going to sit in the chair for maybe a day and a half,” he said. “So for me to have this big plan of trying to rejuvenate our football team, that’s not my place.”
The Jaguars will have Tuesday off after they arrive in London, with their first practice scheduled for Wednesday.
“I know that they’re sad,” Walker said. “But I know at some point, especially when (Bradley) gets back, it will be business as usual.”