Todd Wash’s motivations are not complex.
The reasons for his current situation are, in fact, as simple and straightforward as his overall approach to coaching. And if in that simplicity is the key to his success, it’s just as true that his reasons for being in Jacksonville are basic and clear.
He is in Jacksonville because Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley is in Jacksonville.
There are nuances around that statement, because as with any coach, Wash is motivated by helping players succeed, by motivating good players to become great and all of those other things that define a coach.
But as for being with the Jaguars...
As for why he is the Jaguars’ defensive line coach and perhaps facing a significant rebuild rather than holding the same position with the Seattle Seahawks, a team with a dominant defense and on the cusp of the Super Bowl...
Well, the reason is Bradley. Absolutely, clearly and simply.
“I know where he (Bradley) is coming from at all times, and he also knows that I have his back,” Wash, who was hired as the defensive line coach late last month, said recently.
“I think that’s very important.”
How important is the bond between Bradley and Wash? How strong?
Important enough that Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll opted not to stand in its way. Important enough that when Bradley approached Carroll about letting his friend out of his contract in Seattle so he could take the same job, a lateral move, in Jacksonville...
Well, Bradley said Carroll wasn’t crazy about the idea. But he let it happen anyway.
“That’s why he’s one of the best I’ve been around,” Bradley said of Carroll. “He sees the big picture. He said, ‘Hey, you’re getting an opportunity. You’re getting a head coaching job and you want to have one of your closest coaching partners with you.’ He said, ‘I get that Gus, no matter how bad I want him to stay.’ It’s really a credit to Pete.”
Actually, to hear Wash tell it, it’s a credit to Bradley not only that he’s here, but that he had an opportunity in the NFL at all.
The two have known each other since 1988, when they played together on North Dakota State’s NCAA Division II national title team that season. The two were not only playing at the time, Wash said they were learning about football, about the value of a simple, fundamental approach to coaching.
They learned that under NDSU Head Coach Rocky Hager, and while much has been made in recent weeks of the NDSU roots of Wash, Bradley and Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Bob Babich, the relationship between Wash and Bradley was about more than NDSU. A lot more.
The two worked together first at North Dakota State in 2002-2003 and 2005, Bradley helped Wash get hired with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They worked together there in 2007 and 2008, and it there that Bradley said the duo made perhaps their biggest strides as coaches under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
“We continued to grow there, and challenge each other,” Bradley said. “We’re both very passionate about football. We got to Tampa Bay, and Monte had a real distinct philosophy and it came really easy to us. We’ve always mirrored that philosophy, and it formed into a bond.”
Bradley moved to Seattle in 2009 to become defensive coordinator. Two years later, he hired Wash as defensive line coach. In Seattle, Wash and Bradley helped the Seahawks’ defense rank No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed this past season.
What to expect in Jacksonville?
Wash said he doesn’t know, but just as Bradley talks of focusing on improvement rather than records, Wash said his approach is teaching first and worrying about statistics and record later, if at all.
“A lot of it is going to be fundamentals,” Wash said recently. “There are a lot of good defensive linemen in this league. There are a lot of good defensive lines in this league. The difference is going to come down to fundamentals.
“We preach fundamentals every single day.”
Wash, asked recently about the style of play the defensive line might play, and the details of the scheme of the defense, said as of now those are questions for a later day. First, the coaches must study the Jaguars’ personnel. After that, he said they can determine the specifics of scheme.
“We have to figure out what scheme we’re going to run to best fit our players,” he said. “In Seattle, we were very big up front. We were first- and second-down run stoppers and we went with a whole different group to rush the passer. That’s how our kids were built in Seattle.
“We have to evaluate here and see what best fits them to give us a chance to win and go from there. We have to figure what best fits our players.”
The specifics are less important than the bigger picture of helping players improve daily whatever the scheme.
“I feel like I’m a good teacher, and I feel like I’m able to communicate to the player to get the most out of him,” Wash said. “Fundamentals are where we’re going to start each and every day at practice. You’re going to be playing against people who may be a little better than you are, but technique will save you in the long run.
“Every snap you take there’s going to be a comment to get you better. I don’t think anybody in the NFL has every played a perfect game and we’ve never coached a perfect game, but for us, I think we can get better each and snap and that’s my philosophy.”
With a change in coaching and philosophy, too, will come a change in style on the defensive line. Whereas former defensive line coach Joe Cullen was known for his fiery demeanor on the practice field, Wash takes a lower-key, if equally intense, approach.
“I don’t think it’s a situation where you have to run up their hind end to get production out of them,” he said. “The game is very important to everybody in this league. We’re going to give them an opportunity to be successful. If they take advantage of it, great. If they don’t, we’ll find somebody else that can be successful.
“I’m not a yeller and screamer. I get excited for them when they make plays, but my job is to get them better each and every day. If that happens, we’ll be pretty good up front.”
It was a situation coming here from Seattle, I didn’t have to come – I was asked to come,” Wash said. “To me, I owe it to him any way I can possibly help him, and obviously help the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It was just an easy decision for me.”