SPORTSTALK: THE JAG-OFF

IN GUS WE BUST? WEEK 8, JAGS VS. DOLPHINS

When do we start talking about Coach Bradley being on the hot seat?

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Another home game for the Jacksonville Jaguars, another chance for Blake Bortles to make the leap. This game was the biggest start in his young career.

Why? Because the Dolphins are arguably the Jaguars’ biggest rivals, if for no other reason than proximity. And Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, in many ways, is an analog for Bortles: a young, up-and-down quarterback who can run if he needs to (both were top-five QB rushers coming in). Tannehill has looked increasingly sharp this year, but the jury was out on both of them coming into Sunday’s clash.

And it still is afterward. Tannehill was yet another quarterback who floundered in the face of an initially opportunistic Jags D (just 56 yards allowed in the first half). And Bortles? A dumpster fire. Yes, he threw two long touchdown passes. Both, however, went to Dolphins defenders.

Some missed opportunities for Jags’ offense were not on Bortles, such as the bomb Allen Robinson dropped on the first drive that should have been caught. For every one of those, though, there were things like the two pick-sixes — Bortles’ 11th and 12th of the year, even though he didn’t start until Week 4 — and the fumble in the second quarter. At times, especially on third down, he looked Gabbertesque. Except Gabbert never had a running back like Denard (apologies to MJD apologists).

The Jags opened up the route tree in the third quarter, going deep, which only exposed Bortles as the Dolphins stopped respecting the run and blitzed.

As the game progressed, Gus Bradley looked less and less like an NFL coach. More Tom Arnold than Tom Landry, Gus’ team once again looked outmatched in the second half. What was a winnable game at intermission was over long before the third quarter ended. Tannehill sharpened up as the fourth quarter commenced, one-liners and fart wafts filled the press box, and a “Let’s Go Dolphins” chant pervaded the cleaner air outside it.

On a day when the Pillsbury Doughboy did pelvic thrusts in the end zone and a wayward passenger pigeon was closer to the ball than anyone in the Jags secondary, it’s tempting to play for comedy and ignore serious matters, like Luke Joeckel going down with a concussion or Blake Bortles calling himself a “lab rat” who is “killing us” during his postgame media session. The real question, though, is Gus Bradley’s job security, which is looking more and more like an open question (if discussion in the press conference room as the clock ran down was any indication).

During yet another tightly managed presser, I asked Bradley about his “job security” after another “challenging game” for which the coach will “take responsibility.” The one word answer: “No,” he said, staring down, oddly pensive, as the presser wrapped. That said, Bradley might need to call Mike Mularkey’s realtor if the shit-storm continues. As the folks at KYN can tell you, Shad Khan is not averse to pulling the plug if the numbers are going south. I’m not seeing where wins come from for this squad anytime soon.

Parking at EverBank looks like it will be much easier this December games than it has been thus far. There’s a bright side. A pissed-off Bengals team on the road playing for its season next week, though, is the immediate, non-negotiable reality. There are no easy answers for any questions at the season’s midpoint, with our home team a lowly 1-7.

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