JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Bradley, who is entering his second season as the Jaguars’ Head Coach, said his heart absolutely is with the organization, and that’s where his focus, energy and passion lie.
But Bradley said he also is human, and as such, he couldn’t be happier for a bunch of guys from his recent past: the Seattle Seahawks, who will play Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Bradley spent 2009-2012 as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, working under head coach Pete Carroll the last three seasons and helping the Seahawks develop into one of the NFL’s best organizations and defenses.
“I am excited for those guys up there, but my love now is with Jacksonville,” Bradley said this week as the Seahawks prepared to play the Broncos Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“Me being excited for them – I don’t want anything to take away from what we’re doing here, but I was with those guys for three years. You do grow close to them, and you see guys grow through it. I’m excited for them. To say I don’t care about those guys, I would be lying. I want them to do well.”
The Seahawks finished first in the NFL in total defense this season using the scheme Bradley has installed in Jacksonville, a scheme that ideally is a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 front-seven philosophies with a hybrid “Leo” pass rusher and man-to-man coverage with single-high safety in the secondary.
“There’s a certain philosophy and a style they want to play with,” Bradley said. “They believe in it, and they really try to pursue free agency and draft with that philosophy. There are teams that have gone playing Cover-2, there are teams that have played quarters and there are teams that have played single safety. What’s common with all of them is they have conviction in what they’re doing.
“We saw it growing. It’s exactly the style we saw coming together.”
Bradley talked throughout this past season about wanting Jaguars players to “own” what the team was doing offensively and defensively. To him, that meant players talking freely to coaches about what was happening on the field, and offering suggestions and ideas.
He said Seahawks players defensively began operating with that approach last year, and he said he saw the beginnings of that in Jacksonville in the second half of this season.
“This team (the Seahawks) really took ownership of the principles (last season), and really understood the principles so much that they looked deeper into the game,” Bradley said. “They were no longer learning the system and all of the intricacies. They would talk in terms of, ‘This is what’s going on on the field, and we think this would be better than this.’ It was well-thought out. It was really good feedback.”
“The more you’re playing with the same group of guys, the better chance you have of building that,” he said. “We’d like to get to that point where we have the same consistency, the same guys out on the field. Right now, we’re juggling some things, getting some different players. But as soon as we can get it to where it’s the same consistent guys you can grow off of that.”
Bradley said having seen the process in Seattle helped him this past season.
“There (in Seattle) it was like, ‘We believe this, we know it can happen, we believe it can happen – we’ve just got to stay the course,’” Bradley said. “What happened validated it. Now, we come here and say, ‘Yes, not only do I believe it can happen, it was validated.’ We went through some growing pains and at times we got hurt, but we fought through it.’’
The Seattle defense that Bradley helped build on Sunday will face perhaps its toughest task of the season: a Broncos offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning. The Broncos this past season led the NFL in total offense, setting an NFL record for points in a season. Manning set NFL records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns through the air.
“They’re both very strong,” Bradley said. “Offensively, any Peyton Manning-run offense is always difficult to defend. On top of that, if he has two weeks to prepare it makes it that much more difficult.”
Bradley said he doubts either team will drastically alter its approach Sunday.
“Both teams are probably going into it saying, ‘We’re going to do what got us here,’’’ he said. “I don’t know if you’ll see many surprises from Seattle, nor do they have to create a lot of surprises. The NFL is a league where precision is so important.
“When you go into a game like this you rely on what you do really well because you know you have to have that type of precision.”