Gruden: 'The Jaguars are going to turn it around'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden spends his days watching game film of teams from around the NFL. While Gruden has a clear understanding of all 32 squads, he has a special connection to the Jaguars.

Gruden hired Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley to teach his Buccaneers linebackers in 2006. It was Bradley's first NFL job. 

The two stopped working together in 2009 after Gruden was fired by Tampa Bay, but they remain in touch. Gruden and Bradley remain close despite both having busy schedules and they try to talk whenever the opportunity arises.

"Quite a bit, not day-to-day or week-to-week but when the timing is right, text message - there's a lot great technology out there today," Gruden said on Thursday night at the team's "Meet Me at the 50" event.

"You can Snapchat, I can email or text message that I couldn't do 10 or 20 years ago, but we stay in touch. I'm a big supporter of his."

Gruden has watched Bradley's head coaching tenure in Jacksonville from afar. The Super Bowl-winning play-caller knows the 13-39 record is far from impressive, but he also understands the job came with its lumps.

"I know what he inherited, I know the job that he had to take on and it's going to take a little bit of time," Gruden said. "I really believe their time is coming soon - like this week."

The Monday Night Football analyst acknowledged that Bradley had to deal with a lot of transition when he was hired by Shad Khan in 2013. However, he thinks the Jaguars are finally starting to turn the corner.

"You have a new owner, you have a team that needed some direction, you gotta put some pieces in place, you've gotta draft, you've gotta put a team together," Gruden said.

"His vision - it's not going to happen in one year - some of these people think you can acquire a coaching staff in one year. All the coaches are under contract, all the players are under contract, you can't control the things out of your control. So I think the timing is a big issue for all of us coaches but the next four games are going to be important for the Jaguars and I think it starts this Sunday in Chicago."

Gruden also has a history with Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. The two worked together before the quarterback was drafted in 2014. The former head coach has always been very effusive in his praise of Bortles and his feelings haven't changed over the last three years.

"I think his play and production speaks for itself," Gruden said.

"Not many guys in the history of football have come in and done what he's done. But I don't think stats - I'm not into these stat chats - a lot of people are into fantasy football and yardage - yardage doesn't mean anything, nothing. The No. 1 offense in the league is not what you think it is. Just because you make more yards than I do, doesn't mean you have a better offense than me."

Now in Year 3, Gruden believes Bortles needs to lead his team to victory. He has had time to develop, but now he has to will the squad past the hurdles of being a middling group.

"Bortles is a winner," Gruden said. "Ask Central Florida how they're doing since he left. The kid is a winner, he's going to find a way to win - he's just got to get his defense, his special teams - he's just got to find a way to put himself in position to do that in Jacksonville and I think the time is about right now."

Gruden is aware of the public's perceptions about his positivity. Still, he is sticking by the Big Cats and believes the team is on the rise.

"Everybody says I'm too positive and 'Gruden's this, Gruden's that,'" Gruden said. "You wait and see, the Jaguars are going to turn it around."

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.


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