When Gus Bradley was hired as Jaguars head coach three years ago, most fans probably didn't expect to arrive at a point where he'd be fired midseason.
Have we arrived at the point we didn't think we would arrive at?
I don't know. The tire tread has been driven bare, and the excuses have been stretched thin. The team hasn't improved, win-column wise, and the coach is out of ideas.
Gus Bradley will mostly likely make his departure from the Jaguars head coaching position at some point this season. If not during the season, then after.
Whether you fell off of the Gus Bus miles back or you're hanging on to the dragging muffler for dear life, reality is reality. The team is underperforming, and it doesn't look good for the coach. Most fans are now calling for Bradley's head.
A significantly less amount of fans are calling for general manager Dave Caldwell's head. Caldwell hired Bradley three years ago, shares his overall vision, and is thought of somewhat as Bradley's right-hand man in a grander franchise operation.
Caldwell is certainly not immune to the inevitable evaluation that the entire Jaguars franchise will undertake this season. Still, a Dave Caldwell exodus from Jacksonville seems very unlikely at this point.
Most fans and local media seem comfortable with the idea of Caldwell heading the general team duties for another season after Bradley is booted out the door. Why?
Perhaps for a few reasons that separate coaching responsibilities from GM duties, but simply, and honestly, because of quarterback play.
The Jaguars are bad. The roster isn't capable of winning, and the third-year team that is supposed to be "built" appears to be in pieces.
Things would be way worse, however, if the Jaguars were at a point where quarterback play was absolute shit. Jaguars fans should know -- we've been at that point several times.
When it's all said and done, Caldwell might be blamed for whiffing on his first head coaching hire. Hell, Caldwell shares the largest portion of blame for taking three years to draft and assemble a Jaguars roster that is no better at winning than the shit-show that was in place upon his arrival.
But one thing is almost certain -- Caldwell will be granted the opportunity to hire a second head coach. Caldwell wouldn't, however, receive the same opportunity to pick another quarterback.
Three years, fair or not, was the timeline set in place when Caldwell inherited the team in 2013 and proceeded to start gutting the roster.
Now six weeks through the third season, the team is stuck in limbo. Gaping holes have overshadowed minor improvements, and a lack of coaching competence has restricted team potential.
Quarterback development, however, has not been stagnant.
Blake Bortles, Caldwell's 2014 1st round draft choice, has absorbed into his role as Jaguars franchise quarterback. Blake is on pace for 34 TDs and 4300 yards this season -- an incredible feat considering the Jaguars' 1-5 record.
Of course, Bortles hasn't been perfect this season by any stretch of the imagination. The second-year QB still struggles with consistency, but his potential is very much visible and the offensive improvement is evident.
Since his Jacksonville arrival, Dave Caldwell has set out to assemble a competitive roster through the draft. He has both succeeded and failed in doing so.
Throwing young talent at a wall and seeing who would stick was Caldwell's method for his first two years as Jacksonville GM. It was the only option Caldwell had as the franchise underwent a massive rebuild.
The first two seasons of building spawned a Jaguars roster almost completely made up of first and second-year players.
In his third draft this past offseason, Caldwell was able to draft for depth. Several free-agent acquisitions and a maturing roster provided a soft landing for several rookies. Having acquired his franchise quarterback the year before, Caldwell was able to focus on drafting a premier pass rusher, offensive/defensive line depth, secondary depth, and a workhorse running back.
Fast-forward a few months to present day. As the Jaguars sit stranded in an all-too-familiar place, they are presented with an unfamiliar situation --
The quarterback isn't the issue.
It's fair to say that we still don't know if Gus and Dave hit or missed on their franchise quarterback, considering Bortles has only started 19 games. It's also fair to say that quarterback play is not the largest concern for owner Shad Khan and his Jaguars at the moment.
Fielding a competitive team is important. Assembling a roster capable of competing against elite NFL talent is important, as well.
The franchise QB, however, is the most important component. Caldwell snagged his franchise QB in 2014, and it doesn't appear that the Jaguars will need to replace this QB anytime soon.
It is for this reason that Caldwell will probably not be replaced anytime soon, either.
This is just how things work in the NFL. Caldwell's stock might not be exclusively attached to the success of his hand-picked quarterback, but Caldwell would be in a much different situation if Blake Bortles was playing like Blaine Gabbert. It's extremely difficult to climb out of a roster hole created by an incompetent quarterback.
The mistakes and draft-misses that Caldwell has accumulated (some of them we might not be aware of yet) are not capable, at this time, of overshadowing the fact that Blake Bortles is getting better. Fans want Gus Bradley out because he appears incapable of squeezing potential out of his team. A regressing Blake Bortles would have a similar effect on Caldwell's perceived ability to assemble a team.
Once Gus is gone, Shad Khan will probably let Dave Caldwell hire a new head coach. But if Blake Bortles wasn't on pace for 34 TDs and 4300 yards, Gus and Dave might be heading out the door hand-in-hand.