FAIRHOPE, Ala. – Jerry Sullivan doesn’t know how much longer he wants to coach.
But he does know he wants to do it at least one more year, maybe two, and he knows because of the players involved, he wants to do it in Jacksonville.
Sullivan, one of the league’s most highly regarded wide receivers coaches, is one of at least two assistants from last year’s Jaguars coaching staff who is being retained by new Head Coach Gus Bradley, with another being linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
The news of their retentions came Monday as the staff began gathering at the Senior Bowl.
“We worked through some things, and it worked out,” Sullivan said at Fairhope High School, site of Monday’s South practice in preparation for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Saturday.
“It worked out really good.”
Sullivan, 68, a 20-year veteran of NFL coaching, joined the Jaguars’ staff last January, working for a year under Head Coach Mike Mularkey. He previously has coached in San Diego (1992-1996), Detroit (1997-2000), Arizona (2001-2003), Miami (2004), San Francisco (2005-2010).
Sullivan served as offensive coordinator with the Cardinals in 2003. He and Duffner are widely considered two of the better assistants at their positions in the NFL, and two of the stronger assistants from last year’s staff.
Duffner, 58, who will enter his eighth season with the Jaguars, joined the team in 2006, being hired by then-Head Coach Jack Del Rio. He is the longest-tenured member of the Jaguars’ staff and previously coached in Cincinnati (1997-2002) and Green Bay (2003-2005).
Duffner also was the head coach at Holy Cross from 1986-1991 and the head coach at Maryland from 1992-1996, serving as defensive coordinator with the Bengals from 2001-2002.
“I like the energy and I like the passion,” Duffner said of Bradley. “All of those coaches are fine coaches and fine people. I see similar traits in the guys in terms of being very direct and being ‘people’ people, if you will.”
Duffner said he and Bradley knew each other a bit from seeing one another at coaching events throughout the years, but this week marked their first extensive meeting.
“I had a positive feeling about him, and certainly, he had a reputation,” Duffner said. “We had a chance to talk further, and it all came out very much that aligns with the way I believe.”
Duffner said he met with both Bradley, who was hired last week after four seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, and new General Manager David Caldwell.
“After visiting with them, and getting a chance to feel the passion that they displayed, when they extended an opportunity, it was something I wanted,” Duffner said.
Sullivan, one of the more high-profile hires made by Mularkey in January, came out of retirement to join the Jaguars, speaking at the time of his desire to work with Mularkey. Although he hadn’t previously worked with Bradley, he said he immediately got a good feeling about the Jaguars’ new head coach.
“I’m excited about the opportunity that lies ahead of us, and we’ll go from there,” Sullivan said. “I've known (Seahawks Head Coach) Pete Carroll for a long time, so there were some mutual people. I met with Gus and it went well.”
Sullivan said he had met with Mularkey following the season, and when Mularkey asked if he planned to return, Sullivan said he did – primarily to continue working with the Jaguars’ young receivers, Cecil Shorts and
Shorts in his second season emerged as one of the best young big-play receivers in the NFL, finishing the season with 979 yards receiving and seven touchdowns despite missing two games with a concussion and not starting the first seven games of the season.
“As rough a year as it was, I got a great deal of personal satisfaction watching Cecil blossom into a big-league player,” he said. “He became a good football player, and a guy people had to take out of the game.”
Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, also improved dramatically this season, overcoming a slow start to finish with 64 receptions for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
Sullivan said he believes Blackmon and Shorts can continue developing, and the chance to help that development was critical to his desire to continue coaching.
“That was what I had told Mike,’’ Sullivan said. “He said, ‘How much longer do you want to coach?’ I said, ‘Well, for sure another year. I want to bring them along another year. If I can bring them along another year, and they can get as good this year as they were last year, I can walk away feeling really good.“I’m just taking it a year at a time. It’s like I told Gus, ‘I’m not going to do this another five more years,’ and if I’m comfortable with the setting, I might do it two. But for now, I’m just taking it a year at a time and seeing what happens.”