Jaguars hire new head coach
Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley accepts Jacksonville job
The Jacksonville Jaguars have an energetic head coach to go along with their new, brash general manager.
The Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as the franchise's fifth head coach Thursday morning, the latest move in the team's rebuilding project.
The 46-year-old Bradley joins general manager Dave Caldwell, who led the coaching search after being hired last week.
Bradley will be introduced to Jacksonville at a news conference 11 a.m. Friday at EverBank Field.
"It was just a matter of time before Gus Bradley became a head coach in the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely fortunate that Gus will be on our sidelines for many years to come," Caldwell said in a team statement released at 10:45 a.m. Thursday. "Gus more than met every criteria we insisted on from our new head coach, and his intangibles and leadership abilities are exceptional. Gus is who the Jaguars need now and in the future."
Caldwell's players feel the same way. Offensive lineman Eugene Monroe has had four head coaches in the past three seasons, and despite the dramatic turnover, he is excited about another change.
"There is a lot of change going on since I've been here," Monroe said. "We had a new coach last year and that was exciting, so as a player you just continue to play."
Cecil Shorts III wishes he was still playing right now. He said that sitting at home watching other teams in the playoffs has gotten him more motivated, especially with a new head coach calling the shots next year.
"I know the other guys feel the same way," Shorts said. "We are going to go out there and compete each week and get into the playoffs and then from there to the Super Bowl."
Bradley was hired 10 days after Mike Mularkey was fired by Caldwell after ending his first season in Jacksonville 2-14 -- the worst record in franchise history.
Bradley spent the last four seasons in Seattle, earning a reputation as a fiery assistant who demanded -- and often got -- the most from his players. His defense improved each of the last three years and finished in the top 10 in points and yards the last two. This season, the Seahawks ranked first in points allowed (15.3), fourth in yards (306.2) and tied for fourth in takeaways (31).
The Jaguars were 30th in the league in total defense in 2012.
"I am very proud to accept the offer to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars," Bradley said in a statement. "(Owner) Shad Khan and Dave Caldwell expect to win, and that's what I wanted to hear. That's why I am coming to Jacksonville -- to win a Super Bowl. I can't wait to meet everyone in Jacksonville on Friday and get this going."
Before becoming the Seahawks defensive coordinator in 2009, Bradley was the linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2007 to 2008. He has 23 years of coaching experience, including seven seasons in the NFL.
Bradley played college football at North Dakota State University, where he was a free safety and a punter.
The news that Bradley was coming to Jacksonville was somewhat a surprise in NFL circles, as it was widely reported a day earlier that Bradley would be hired to coach the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Bradley was one of the commodities that just about everybody in the league was looking at as one of the next head coaches," Channel 4 sports director Sam Kouvaris said.
"He's got a brilliant football mind," Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said this week. "He's got a way of reaching people and touching people and getting the best out of them, coaches and players alike. He's got everything that you're looking for."
Hiring for the future
The Jaguars interviewed defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden before striking a deal with Bradley.
Khan fired Smith, the architect of the roster since 2009, and charged Caldwell with turning around one of the league's worst franchises. Caldwell's first move was ousting Mularkey, saying the team "needed a fresh start."
Many believed Caldwell would target close friend and college roommate Greg Roman, San Francisco's offensive coordinator.
Instead, Caldwell and Bradley will team up in hope of getting the Jaguars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Jacksonville has missed the postseason 11 times in the last 13 years.
"The relationship between the general manager and the coach is vital," Khan said last week. "It has to be a symbiotic relationship and they have to grow together and the coach has to be somebody that it's very, very important to win and very, very important for Jacksonville."
Building the 2013 Jaguars
Bradley inherits a team that lacks playmakers on both sides of the ball.
The Jaguars have running back Maurice Jones-Drew under contract for another year and have young and talented receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III. But the offensive line was a mess in 2012, adding to the team's quarterback woes.
Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne proved to be the answer.
Caldwell said he had "others in mind" to compete for the starting job.
Defensively, the Jaguars could lose linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis to free agency. The more pressing issue will be how to generate more consistent pass rush.
The Jaguars had a league-low 20 sacks this season. Philadelphia Eagles cast-off Jason Babin helped down the stretch, but the Jaguars are likely to use the No. 2 pick in April's NFL draft to find a pass rusher.
Bradley helped develop defensive end Bruce Irvin this season. Irvin, the 15th overall pick, led all rookies with eight sacks. His defense had other young stars, too.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round draft pick, ranked second among rookies in tackles with 140 and fourth with three interceptions. Safety Earl Thomas was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, second-year cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with eight interceptions and defensive end Chris Clemons had a career-high 11½ sacks.
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