"You guys have an unbelievable culture," Gus Bradley bellowed at his team in the locker room after their Thursday night win over the Titans. "And it was made by you guys. You guys did it, and now you own it."
In Gus' first two years as Jaguars head coach, this budding "culture" was easy to define but somewhat difficult to buy into. Buried beneath a pile of 25 losses in two seasons, this culture began to rot and stink without a proper source of nourishment.
Earlier this season -- seven games into Bradley's third schedule -- six losses painted a portrait that was all too familiar, threatening a further deterioration of this culture and the empty promises it stood for.
But that was before the Jaguars won three of their next four games.
Bradley was asked on Friday if his young team was equipped to handle sudden success. "They're sure saying the right things and acting the right way," Bradley answered. "I think that my mind is of the idea that they'll come ready to go and work because they've shown us nothing otherwise. I have great faith in them."
Sure, the Jaguars definitely aren't where they should be. The 4-6 record through November looks prettier than the 1-5 record from the first month and a half of the season, but it doesn't even begin to illustrate the blunders and slip-ups that the Jaguars have accumulated through 11 weeks.
A lot of the teams' early season misfortune landed on the shoulders on Gus Bradley, and rightfully so. The choices Gus made, the losses he accumulated, and the unsubstantiated "winning culture" he maintained though it all -- a lot of these came across as palms to the face of a fan base that has spent the last three years stuck waist-deep in unjustified optimism.
That's just how it works when your team is a group of losers.
But if I'm going to be that critical -- that judgmental of a man invested in the future of something I care about so deeply, I'm also going to take the opportunity to give credit where credit is due.
Do you believe in Bradley's recent success? Do you believe in the job he's done, or the culture he has worked to instill within his team? Do you believe in victory?
Maybe you should. After all, all of these things -- once only rah-rah talk at a podium -- have recently become very real.
I spent all of Sunday afternoon scoreboard watching -- that's something I haven't felt the need to do in years. Rooting against teams that could derail my teams' playoff hopes this late in the season? What a beautiful opportunity.
Blame it on the weak division, blame it on a whacky NFL season, or blame it on the Jaguars' fluky ability to pull out close wins in games that probably should have been blowouts. I don't care.
I'm watching meaningful Jacksonville Jaguars football as the calendar nears Thanksgiving, and you can't take that away from me.
Is this a testament to the culture that Gus Bradley and the Jaguars organization have constructed from the ground up? No, maybe not. I guess a 4-6 record is probably where a lot of fans thought the team would be at this point before the season started, but then again, situations change and expectations shift along with them.
But it is within this law of shifting expectations that I now find myself buying into a culture that once portrayed a delusional loser jumping around the locker room shouting, "we believe in victory!"
Counting three wins in four games will sure as hell make you a believer in victory, too, even if there's a good chance this streak might not amount to much in the long run.
Of course, it's a slippery slope. Four games cannot define a culture. Three ugly wins aren't strong enough to lift a coach and team out of quicksand.
But if the Jaguars' young roster is anything, they're resilient. They're fighting for a culture they built with their head coach, and one they believe in. Suddenly, there's meaningful football is ahead of us. Gifted with an opportunity to live in the moment, I'm willing to give credit where credit is due.
Keep it tight, Jaguars.