JACKSONVILLE – Part One of senior writer John Oehser's conversation with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley in the wake of the 2015 offseason …
John Oehser: It's clear from listening to you during and after organized team activities and minicamp that you like this roster. Why?
Gus Bradley: It's a highly-competitive, highly-spirited team and I think they're driven to help take this team to another level. When you're working with guys like that, you see great improvement. They love the idea that they're being challenged every day. They want to be uncomfortable, because they feel like that's the way to get the fastest and the greatest growth.
JO: You're obviously a positive guy. Did you have any idea in January 2013 what the process of rebuilding this team was going to take? This has been an overhaul – a process – of significant proportions …
GB: I don't think you ever know, exactly. We all hoped that the wins would be better than what they have been, but we knew it was going to be a challenge and we knew the undertaking we were going to have to do. We knew the type of mentality, the vision and the focus it would take. It's challenging. It challenges you to stay strong in your convictions, but you have to have enough flexibility to adjust. It has been a great two years as far as challenging us. It's preparing our players and our staff so when that success does come we can handle it and sustain it.
JO: It seems from talking to players, especially third-year guys who have been here since you got here, that they're still getting your message … they're still hearing you. That's notable after winning seven games in two seasons ...
GB: I think it's because it feels right. It feels like the way you should do it. I think what we're seeing with our players is they're starting to take it over. They're starting to own it …
JO: Which is what you've always said must happen …
GB: Yes. I think that's one of the stages, is they have to take ownership of it and demand from each other. Another phase we talked about in OTAs is brotherhood, where guys hold each other accountable and they know they're doing it out of love. We talked about it: 'Do you love football or do you like football?' The answer is, 'We love football.' OK, then saying love is OK then. Now, hold each other accountable with love and challenge them: 'That's unacceptable. We have a standard. But we have your back.' That part, that part of the brotherhood, that part of accountability … we need to see that as a team. The ownership, the brotherhood … if we can speed that up, we've got something good going on. I certainly don't take it for granted and genuinely appreciate these players' mentality, but it's not surprising. These guys are highly competitive guys who know what it takes and they're very professional. I just appreciate that.
The Jaguars completed their final minicamp practice of 2015 in front of a large crowd at the Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields.
JO: Are you closer to having the 53 guys you want – "Your Guys," if you will …
GB: I think you keep that through competition. I'm very pleased with how guys have handled the competition, how they have handled the feeling of 'uncomfort' and have risen to the challenge … so, yeah, I'm very pleased with that and very pleased with the guys we have in this building.
JO: After the final minicamp practice Thursday, you talked about the team being strong in some specific areas. What are some of the things you like about this group right now?
GB: Special-teams wise, I like the feeling we have … the physical traits that are on the team, I think that's going to help us. We have a couple of positions we have to find out, but I'm confident we'll do that. Defensively, obviously the injury to (rookie defensive end) Dante (Fowler Jr.) is unfortunate, but guys will step up and I think within that unit they're creating a standard of what is acceptable and it's real. I'm very pleased with that. Offensively, it's always a challenge when you're putting in a new offense. It always takes a little time. I'm pleased with how fast our guys have picked it up and their attention to detail in the new offense. You have to go through some struggles when you're putting in an offense; hopefully, we can get through those struggles in the preseason and solidify it so once the regular season comes around we're running.
JO: You mentioned the offense … that was a big decision, moving on from most of an offensive staff and hiring Greg Olson as offensive coordinator along with a new offensive line coach, new quarterbacks coach and new running backs coach. Looking back, how tough was that?
GB: It's always tough. Obviously, you'd like to be a staff where you're together for 10 years because continuity is so important in the NFL. You look at Tom Brady: he has had the same offense since he started … Peyton Manning, the same offense … Drew Brees, the same offense. When you have continuity like that, you have a chance to be successful. Well, we had to make a change. We feel good about the changes. Now, it's about continuity. We need to start putting these years together. I know the players will appreciate that. Until then, it doesn't mean you won't have success. It just means we have to be focused and on it to speed that process up.
Photos from the second of 2015 Jaguars Minicamp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields.
JO: Five months into that process, how has it gone?
GB: It's hard when you're not in pads. We feel like we've competed in every facet we can. It's not only talking about the run game but practicing the run game even if it's going against garbage cans. Those things I'm very pleased with. The only thing you can judge it on at this stage, really, is the missed assignments … are busts that take place. Those have been really low. In terms of that part of it, I like the focus of our players and the attention to the detail.
JO: You hired Doug Marrone as assistant head coach-offense/offensive line. What do you like about his approach so far?
GB: He's a strong fundamentalist and he really does a good job developing players. With our offensive line, although there are some veteran players in there now with free-agent acquisitions (center Stefen Wisniewski and right tackle Jermey Parnell) and (guard) Zane Beadles, it's still a relatively young group. He (Marrone) has been known to bring offensive line groups together, to develop players. If you watch him in individual work, you see that he is a strong, fundamental, developmental coach. That's what I've come to appreciate with him.
The Jaguars completed the first day of 2015 mandatory minicamp on a scorching hot day in Jacksonville.
JO: When you talk to offensive linemen about Marrone, the first thing they mention is attention to detail …
GB: That was one thing last year the players wanted. That's not a knock on what was taking place last year. For a lot of them it was their first year in the league and they were taking care of themselves, but I think now after going through that, they have some maturity to them and that's a big part of what they're looking for – that attention to detail. Because of last year's experiences, they're open to it and they want to be challenged in that way.
(Note: Part 2 of senior writer John Oehser's Q&A with Gus Bradley will run on jaguars.com Monday. Topics include offensive coordinator Greg Olson and quarterback Blake Bortles).