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Gus Bradley: Rookie Of The Year?

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Head coach Gus Bradley could be the catalyst for major change in Jacksonville. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
Head coach Gus Bradley could be the catalyst for major change in Jacksonville. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.

I like to think of the NFL as a big game of tetris where you just keep moving around coaches and players until the combination fits. As we know, Jacksonville has been losing at this game for a while now, but perhaps with the addition of their new head coach, Gus Bradley, things could begin to shift in their favor. Prior to this year, Bradley was working as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2009-2012. Before that he was the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to his time with the Bucs, he wore many hats at his alma mater, North Dakota State, but most notably ended up becoming the assistant head coach. For an NFL coach, his resume appears rather short, however short it may be, there is no denying that he has been a crucial piece in the game for these teams. In Bradley’s rookie season as the head coach of the Jaguars he has a lot on his plate. He was immediately faced with the decision of whether to bench Blaine Gabbert and bring in Chad Henne (he chose Gabbert) and is already implementing a new, analytics based strategy. Both of these moves probably have many people scratching their heads.

Bradley is well aware of the fact that he is up against adversity from every angle. The Jaguars hit an all time low last year, only winning two games, and now it’s his job to drag them out of the mud. It would seem arguable that the talent pool on Jacksonville runs shallow, if only it weren’t for the fact that they have had some top draft picks over the last several years due their failure to win more than just a handful of games per season. Are they squandering their picks? Is it just plain old fashioned bad luck? Is it poor judgement and coaching? At this point it doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is Bradley’s ability to play the hand he has been dealt.

Upon realization that hard work on the field and hours of reviewing tapes was not going to be the only thing the Jaguars need to start making a turn-around, Bradley turned to the team’s recently instated Analytics Department (headed up by Tony Khan, owner Shad Khan’s son) for cold, hard, calculations and statistics. Bradley is a bit of a maverick in this sense. Many teams have begun to embrace utilizing their analytics departments, while some still choose to forego analytics entirely (ask the Steelers how that has been working out for them). Critics might say that this is a last-resort type approach to coaching this team to a few more wins this season, however, if it shows results there is a good chance more teams will catch on to this trend.

Right now, the team is still reeling from so many major inconsistencies. Bradley’s new wave approach and personal mantra of providing consistency for his players may be just what they need while they chase off the ghosts of seasons past. When nothing else seems to work, having a coach who has a reputation of being open to a more progressive coaching style seems necessary.

Nobody is really sure what to expect from Bradley in his rookie season but the general consensus is that of optimism and excitement. He seems to have a contagious positive attitude about him that has started to rub off on his team and the rest of the coaching staff even though he has spent the offseason essentially dressing emotional wounds from the battle of the two very bad seasons which preceded his arrival.

When speaking to the media Bradley comes off as incredibly genuine. There isn’t a hint of ego or bitterness; just a man who seems excited about turning this team around. Perhaps Bradley is aware of the fact that it’s going to be a long road to success. But fans have begun to express that there is palpable shift in energy since Mularkey was let go and Bradley was ushered in. At the very least (all coaching abilities aside), Jacksonville fans seem to like him. There are plenty of murmurings around Twitter and Instagram that this could be the start of something big in Jacksonville. Perhaps a few years down the road the Jaguars may not be the punchline of the NFL anymore. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see whether Jacksonville still has the warm fuzzies for Bradley as the regular season unfolds; or if he is going to fall back into the NFL Tetris queue awaiting a better fit next year at a different franchise.