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Gus Bradley built a culture that didn’t care about wins, and they never came

The Jaguars were okay with losing as long as the team got better. That meant the losses just kept on coming.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley’s tenure with the team ended Sunday with a 14-48 career record — the worst winning percentage (0.225) ever for a coach with more than 60 games under his belt.

But over 60 games worth of chances didn’t come just because Jaguars owner Shad Khan was fine with the poor marks. Patience was given to Bradley because expectations for the team were extraordinarily low when he left his position as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks to become the team’s head coach in 2013.

At the time, he won over the hearts of Jaguars fans who saw a bubbly, excited, and inspirational coach who could go off on the Seattle sideline, but also bring positivity to the Wichita State basketball team even if he had never met them before.

He was exceptionally easy to root for, and the seemingly perfect fit for a team that needed to wade through a year or two of poor play while a roster was built from nothing.

Bradley didn’t care about the wins or losses — the thing that was important was that the team improved every day.

"One common theme, every team has in camp is to just get better every day," Bradley told NFL.com in September 2014. "It's almost a cliché. And that's how we talk, but we try to take it to another level.”

It made sense.

The Jaguars finished 4-12 his first season, looked to improve the roster in the offseason, and there was reason to believe that things were looking up. While the team was 3-13 in 2014, that was the first year with Blake Bortles at quarterback and Maurice Jones-Drew not bulldozing his way through defenses for the Jaguars, so the minor stepback seemed excusable.

When the team finished 5-11, patience was wearing thin for Jaguars fans, but it was marginal improvement over the previous mark and an offseason’s worth of spending meant hopes were high. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King even thought Bradley would be 2016 NFL Coach of the Year.

But the Jaguars don’t know how to win. After three years of excusing losses as a learning experience, there was no standard to uphold.

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell seemed to confirm that culture was the problem in Bradley’s tenure, as it was a buzzword at his press conference the day after the firing.

“We want a guy that can bring a winning culture to this team,” Caldwell said. “[We’re looking] for a guy to really come in here and really set this culture in terms of winning football. I think we’ve lost eight, nine or 10 games by a touchdown or less here. Those are winnable games and it can be a quick turnaround here.”

In October, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive tackle Malik Jackson were both ejected in a 33-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders that dropped the team to 2-4. Jackson won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in February, and losses came few and far between for Ramsey at Florida State. The rookie cornerback even cried on the sideline because he was “tired of losing.”

Bradley responded to the passion of two players struggling with the idea of losing by saying they needed to stay disciplined. Linebacker Paul Posluszny, who joined the Jaguars before Bradley and fully bought in to the coach’s philosophies, went further.

“I think it’s terrible,” Posluszny said, via the Florida Times-Union. “We need to act like professionals at all times, regardless of what happens. To have guys get thrown out, multiple penalties over and over again, that’s not who we are and we can’t tolerate that moving forward.”

It was a losing culture in Jacksonville filled with players like Posluszny who had become so desensitized to losing that professionalism and a good attitude were far more important than entering a game with expectations of victory and frustrations when it didn’t come.

The burden of high expectations is what led the team to circle the drain in 2016, but it was just a manifestation of a culture Bradley built for a team with zero expectations. When the roster got better, the standards of excellence never raised, and thus, the wins never came.