INDIANAPOLIS – Change is coming. Make no mistake about that.
Gus Bradley, making his first NFL Scouting Combine podium appearance as the Jaguars' head coach, spoke to the national media for more than a half hour in various capacities Saturday, and if there was a theme, that was it:
There will be competition soon in Jacksonville. A lot of it.
With that, will come change.
It also will mean youth and perhaps the accompanying ups and downs, but as of now – before he has been on the field and before he even has been able to talk football with his players – Bradley gets all of that, and he is more than fine with it.
In fact, he can't stop smiling.
"Every day is awesome," Bradley said shortly after stepping from the podium in the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday.
Bradley said, of course, there has been one critical element missing from his experience since taking the job on January 17.
While he has spent time hiring a coaching staff, analyzing the roster and now, beginning this week, preparing for the NFL draft, he has yet to be able to speak about football with players. That won't happen until the team's first veteran minicamp, scheduled for April 16-18.
Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, coaches can't talk football-related matters with players until then, though Bradley said he has spoken to most of the team and said he has gotten good feedback from them on his direction for the franchise.
A huge part of that direction – and a huge part of Bradley's philosophy – is competition.
"You'll see a lot of players coming through our building," Bradley said. "The central theme of our program is competition, and we have to do that for the organization.
"The only way we're going to truly get better is through competition. We're going to bring that in."
Creating it among players is key to Bradley's approach, and meshes with what David Caldwell discussed extensively this week – that the Jaguars will build not through veteran free agency, but through the draft and collegiate free agency.
This team is going to get younger. And that process could happen in a hurry.
Bradley's competition-based philosophy is something he long has believed in, and he said again Saturday it was honed into a system while in Seattle as defensive coordinator the past four seasons. In 2010, Pete Carroll's first year as head coach, the Seahawks had 284 transactions. It was, Bradley said, a difficult year, but one that helped him become the coach he is today.
"It really shaped me," Bradley said. "I saw the impact it had. Guys got better. Through the competition, they had to. There was a feeling of discomfort, but there was also a feeling of, 'Hey, we're getting better. Something special's starting to take place here.' I think it made everybody better.
"I'm not going to say it was easy. When you have two hundred and some roster changes, it's tough to make sure you keep the team together in all those transitions, but that's where Pete was special. He really did a great job keeping it together.
"I'm not saying we're going to have 280 different roster moves, but we are going to infuse that competition. It's my job to make sure that goes over well."
Any questions about the Jaguars' early approach under Caldwell and Bradley should have been erased this week. Each has talked extensively at the combine about building through the draft, and in those words is the game plan for the coming months. As his press availability closed Saturday, Bradley was asked about signing a veteran pass rusher to play the critical "Leo" position in the Jaguars' new defense.
"We're trying to do it right through the draft," Bradley said. "It stems from the leadership of our owner (Shad Khan). The message from him is to say, 'Let's get better every day. I'm right with you on that. Let's do it right. Let's build it from the draft. Let's try to build this thing and let's have it where we're not winning the AFC South, but we're owning the AFC South.'
"We know we're going to have some trials in doing that, but that's OK. That's what it's all about."
Also on Saturday:
*Bradley discussed quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and said again he sees potential in the third-year player. Bradley recently asked coaches to put together tape of current Jaguars players playing well, and Bradley said Gabbert had several such stretches, including early in a season-opening loss at Minnesota this past season. "The classic is the Minnesota game," Bradley said. "He was on fire and you said, 'Wow.' After that, the inconsistencies showed up. That's how we're going into it, saying, 'We just have to help him be more consistent, give him more confidence, give him ability to make those plays at a more consistent rate. Let's see where it takes us.' We don't know. It seems like he's ready. He's ready for the challenge."
*Bradley said he expects the Jaguars to carry a fullback on the roster, expecting the Jaguars to remain a multiple-look team offensively.
*Bradley said he expects defensive coordinator Bob Babich to call the plays on game days. Bradley called the defense for the past four years in Seattle as defensive coordinator. "That's why we hired Bob," Bradley said. "It's tough because it's a passion. It's all I've been doing for the last five years, but I have a lot of faith in Coach Babich."
*Bradley discussed again his interview process with the Jaguars, saying while he had interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles for their head coaching job the previous day, his connection first with Caldwell then with Khan quickly changed his outlook. "I forgot about my cellphone," he said. "I forgot about checking to see what happened."