There hasn’t been much time for new General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley to “settle in.” But that’s the nature of the National Football League these days, and in fact, just about all sports. “There used to be an off-season,” is one of my favorite current sayings. Because there used to be. Professional sports have decided it’s about staying in the public eye all the time, not just during the season. That way you’ll be inclined to buy a hat or a t-shirt sometime during the combine, or free-agency, or the draft or mini-camp or whatever.
But for all the media time and public “face” both Caldwell and Bradley have as part of their jobs, it’s about finding football players and winning games for both. Caldwell has a solid pedigree during his time in the league, the only business he’s ever known. He believes in “big school, big competition” when it comes to drafting players and he sees the draft and college free-agency as the way to building a team.
Bradley likes the same, and that’s how he got hired. He sees the game in a very similar way to Caldwell, buying into the newest “analytics” of how to call a game on game day. He’s enthusiastic, very “out front” and reminds me of Bill Cowher when he took over in Pittsburgh. “We want to make everybody think about how they can get better every day,” is a favorite catch line for Bradley. That’s a good philosophy for anybody in any business. In fact, it’s almost word for word what Mike Mularkey said last year. Mularkey was making decisions based on his three-year contract but it fell apart on the scoreboard and the won-loss record. Bradley will get more of a chance because he’s Caldwell’s hire.
They’re tied together much like Mularkey and Gene Smith. Win, or leave the building, perhaps on the same day. So for saying all the right things, Caldwell and Bradley have that part down.
They’re trained well that way, knowing what their talking points are, and aren’t when they face the media with a united front. But it’s ultimately about the players. Even Caldwell said at the Combine that it would be a trap to be “too aggressive” when it came to the draft. “If we find a suitable trading partner, all options are open,” is how he positioned the Jaguars in the early going. He and Bradley had what you might call “quality time” in Indianapolis, discussing players, talking football and getting to know how each other thinks.
And that’s a good thing. Because when it comes to results, there’s no talking your way out of it. Winning will be the only thing that accepted.