SEATTLE, Wash. – Let's start with what we know:
The Jaguars lost to the Seattle Seahawks, 45-17, Sunday at CenturyLink Field, meaning that what many thought before the game remains true – that the Seahawks are very much NFC- and Super Bowl-championship contenders and that the Jaguars don't look like contenders right now.
No shock on either count.
And no, there's no spinning it. There's no sugarcoating it. There's no nothing along those lines. It wasn't pretty. And after the first quarter, it was never really close.
If the Seahawks are the current measure of NFL excellence – and there was evidence well before Sunday that might prove that case – then the Jaguars perhaps are Sunday's margin of victory away from that.
Those are the facts, and this editorial isn't about ignoring that.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley gets all that. Other decision-makers in the organization do, too. At the same time, know this, too:
Bradley's not giving up on this season. Not even close.
"I believe in our team – I do," Bradley said Sunday following a return to CenturyLink Field, where he had spent the last four seasons as the Seahawks' defensive coordinator.
That was the money quote, the gist of what Bradley had to say in the post-game. He covered other areas, including the possibility the Jaguars will look at whether the zone-blocking scheme being used by the offensive line is the right approach, and how injuries and inexperience have hurt an already young secondary.
But those are short-term issues, and the long-term issue remains the building process. And while three consecutive losses to start the season by one-sided margins may shake the confidence of even the most loyal observers – not to mention the most cynical – Bradley said that doesn't change the reality that, overall, he believes this is going in the right direction.
While meeting with the media after the game, he said he understands that's tough to see. He said he knows outsiders may not see it. But he sees it.
"I know there's a lot we can build on," he said.
Players believe that, too. That was another takeaway of Sunday's postgame, that while 0-3 brings frustration, there remains understanding about the direction – and there remains faith in that direction. Quarterback Chad Henne talked extensively after the game about the Jaguars' week in California that just ended, a week in which the team stayed eight days together at the Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley hotel. Bradley said before and during the week he hoped it would be a bonding experience for the young team. Henne, a six-year veteran, said without question that was the case.
What does that mean in terms of the short-term quest for victories? Who knows? The schedule gets no easier, not with the 2-1 Indianapolis Colts headed to EverBank Field Sunday.
But for the long-term belief remains.
"We trust the process that Coach Bradley has laid out for us," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "We are on his every word. We trust him and we trust the coaches. As players, we have to do a better job. We have to continue to make improvements and show it on the field."
Maurice Jones-Drew agreed.
"It is frustrating, but you have to understand we're trying to build something here," the three-time Pro Bowl running back said. "We're starting at ground zero, so we're working through that."
And in one sense, the approach won't change. Some have suggested that Bradley, whose approach is steeped in positivity, needs to yell more, or to perhaps be more publicly critical of the team and/or players who aren't performing.
Maybe someday. But for now, Bradley said the emphasis will be teaching, citing the example of rookie safety Josh Evans, who Bradley said was in the right place on a second-quarter touchdown pass. Instead of going aggressively for the ball, Evans drifted backward a step or two, and Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice aggressively jumped for the ball. The result was a 23-yard touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
Bradley said there was no point in yelling at Evans, that he didn't want to not jump for the ball. Bradley said he instead told him in that in the NFL, you had to go after the play more aggressively than college. Later in the game, Bradley said Evans made the proper play.
"You could be yelling all the time, but I don't think that's how the culture is for us and I don't think that's how we're going to operate," Bradley said.
Don't interpret that as staying stagnant, or not trying to improve. The Jaguars' interior offensive line struggled on Sunday for a third consecutive game, and as a result, the running game did, too. But there were positives at times when the team gap blocked rather than zone-blocked, and Bradley said afterward there would be thought given to gap blocking more. Considering the team moved to a zone-blocking scheme before the season, that's a significant thing to consider.
And Bradley said while he will continue to coach, there absolutely will be ramifications for poor play.
"We have a certain standard we're trying to get to," Bradley said. "We won't budge on that. We'll hold people accountable."
In so doing, Bradley said the Jaguars will take steps. One step Sunday, he said, was how the Jaguars battled after halftime, how the offense showed signs of life. That's a small step perhaps, but he said it was a step.
The Seahawks had to make similar steps in 2010. That was Bradley's second year as defensive coordinator, and Pete Carroll's first year as head coach. Seattle at the time, as the Jaguars are now, were building, looking for the right mix of players, looking for an identity.
Maybe the Jaguars will find it as quickly as the Seahawks did. Maybe it will take more time. But however long it takes, Bradley and the Jaguars players said the belief in the process remains strong.
Even if they don't look like contenders right now.