ORLANDO, Fla. - While looking for a constant upgrade in the draft and through free agency, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley isn't forgetting what last year was like. The ups and downs, the teaching and the learning and how he can take that and move forward.
"I know this sounds bad," Bradley qualified his statement before going on Tuesday morning. "But I enjoyed last year. I'm not going to miss that opportunity to use our experiences to teach our players and to get better. Not the record, but the things we talked about. Don't be consumed by defeats and don't be overwhelmed by victories. I'm not going to miss out on that."
At the AFC coaches breakfast, all 16 head coaches in the conference are at separate tables throughout a large ballroom with name placards and seats around the table. Some eat; some spend their time talking to some reporters as old friends. Some seem to be enduring the torture, knowing it's only an hour. Bradley is experiencing this for the second time, but last year was nothing like today. As the hour wore on, more and more reporters made their way to the Jaguars table until there was no room.
"More people at the Jaguars table since what, 1999?" I asked one of the Jaguars PR staff.
"Oh, no," he laughed, "EVER."
While the Jaguars were a know force in the late 90's, then Head Coach Tom Coughlin was considered just this side of what Bill Belichick is now. Bradley is on the other side of the spectrum: funny, engaging, honestly interested in answering questions and giving out what information he can. It's all part of the "transparency" he thinks is important to success.
Owner Shad Khan mentioned that while in Orlando yesterday, praising both Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell for keeping things open and honest.
"I'm glad he said that," Bradley commented when I told him about Khan's observations.
"Because I think that's important, not just for our staff and the owner, but for our relationship with the players as well. If they're having a problem, they need to know that they can come talk to anybody, anytime."
Bradley said his policy of always getting better applies to him as well at these meetings. He said he's meeting with fellow coaches to see how they're doing things and how it compares.
"I did that this morning with another coach, talking about (the culture in) the locker room. How's he do it? Does he walk through there? If I didn't do that I might think ‘I got it" and you know those are the three most dangerous words.
His competitors in the division already know what to expect when playing a Gus Bradley coached team. Chuck Pagano, the Colts coach and at three years the most tenured in the division said they knew Bradley's teams would be ready but afterwards realized, despite their record, they weren't giving up.
"They played hard that's for sure," Pagano said this morning. "From snap to whistle, they gave it a full effort. They never backed off and played until the game was over. You don't always find that."
"I don't know what their record was when we played them," new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt remembered this morning at his table. He faced the Jaguars last year as the Cardinals head coach. "But they didn't have any wins and they played hard. There was no ‘give-up' in that team. Spend 5 minutes with Gus and you see why."
Bradley is careful to not criticize any of the players on last year's roster, but is clearly excited about the upgrade.
"Maybe 30 new guys?" he guessed.
Take Bradley's enthusiasm, transfer it to his team, add in the upgraded talent and it's possible, the Jaguars could be the most improved team in the league.
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