PHOENIX – Gus Bradley won’t say all this isn’t terrific.
Bradley, two months into his tenure as Jaguars head coach, on Tuesday morning sat in a conference room at the Arizona Biltmore, an immaculate, posh, historic resort that – among other things toutable – touts itself as having hosted every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover. This was the AFC head coaches media breakfast, one of the most public parts of the NFL’s 2013 spring meetings, and Bradley was talking plan, philosophy, approach. They were his usual topics, one he has covered often and in depth in the last 63 days.
He did this for a long time Tuesday, did it with the same smile and energy that not only landed him the Jaguars job, but has fast made him a favorite among media and fans. About 45 minutes in, he paused – if only briefly. He smiled, in part because he almost always smiles, but there was some exhaustion and some pleasant annoyance in this smile, too.
Because all this? The talking? The preparing? The anticipating? The laying out of the plan?
Even the Biltmore, for all of its poshness?
All this stuff is great – it really is,” Bradley said. “But I want April 2, man.”
That’s the day for which Bradley has waited – since his hiring, and in a sense, for as long as he has been coaching. That’s the day the Jaguars start their offseason program. And April 15, the day the Jaguars can begin on-field offseason work – Bradley’s looking forward to that, too. Those days, the days he can start talking football, coaching players, doing his job...
“That’s what I want,” he said. “I want to be with our guys. I want to be on the field with them April 15. That’s what I want. This is great. People are outstanding, but I just want to coach. I don’t care if it’s at Jamestown College, or Iowa Central Community...”
He tapped his hand on the table, not for emphasis, but to transfer energy.
“I just want to coach,” he said. “I want to have a chance to work with these guys, not because I have all the answers, but I love the challenge to try to help people get better. That’s it.”
Yes, that was Bradley Tuesday – holding court, with energy. If there was a star at the breakfast, he was it – just as he was a star at the Senior Bowl the week after his hiring, and at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month. As he did at those events, Bradley on Tuesday laid out his message, his approach, his vision, and did it with energy and genuineness.
You can’t be near Bradley, in a speaking engagement or a media availability, without feeling his infectious energy, and even normally cynical media talk about his ability to motivate and hold a room.
Bradley was in typical form Tuesday. He spoke of the team’s visit Thursday with West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, and spoke to national writers about his defensive approach. He talked about the competition he expects for roster spots next season, how some players may find it uncomfortable, but how the right players – the players he and General Manager David Caldwell want around – will thrive in the environment.
“That’s where we have to get our guys’ mindset,” he said.
He talked Xs and Os, and said the Jaguars like every other team are working to combat the read-option offenses that were so effective last season. He talked, too, of how he firmly believes the Jaguars can get better quickly by being on details, by doing things right.
He talked, too, of the chance to pick the brains of the other head coaches here in Phoenix. “This time of year is probably the time to do it because during the season everybody gets a little more high-strung and a little more competitive,” he said with a laugh.
But while all that was great, what really was on Bradley’s mind here is getting back to Jacksonville. Bradley was as enthusiastic as usual throughout his hour, but perhaps no more than when he spoke about his first opportunity to speak with players in April.
“The biggest challenge for me in the first meeting will not have it be 2.5 hours long,” he said, laughing. “You feel like there’s so much that you want to share with them: ‘Hey, not only that, look at this – check this out.’ But it can’t be all done in one team meeting. I’ve got to understand that.”
Bradley continued, “‘I’d find it hard to believe we won’t have a team meeting every day, even if it’s for 10 minutes. I think it’s important the next couple of months try to tell them what our vision is, speak to them real clear. There are going to be unknowns with competition, but as far as our vision, there shouldn’t be. The worst thing is the unknown.”
The coming months – even next season – almost certainly will be full of unknowns for the Jaguars. What is most certainly known after the owners’ meetings is this.
Bradley is done talking. He’s had enough preparing.
He’s ready to start working, to start coaching, and no matter how terrific, posh and historic his environs this week, he’s not going to be happy until he gets started.