JACKSONVILLE – Part two of senior writer John Oehser's conversation with Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley in the wake of the 2015 offseason …
Q: You have worked with Greg Olson in the past, but in five months working with him as offensive coordinator, what are your impressions?
A: He's very demanding … very demanding. There's not a lot of fluff to Greg Olson. He just demands it and has a standard and will hold the guys accountable to it. He'll challenge them every day on it. He has a system, he has great conviction in the system and he knows it really well. He's a great teacher and that's what you're looking for. And I think his history of developing quarterbacks – along with (quarterbacks coach) Nathaniel Hackett – is something we need in that room.
Q: Philosophically so far, do you feel like you and Greg are in lockstep?
A: This offseason has been very good as far as that. We've had a chance to sit down at night, go through different scenarios and have different conversations – from calls being made in the game to how we're going to handle players, how we're going to challenge players, the mindset we're going to have. We have a definite approach, a definite culture here in Jacksonville. When you have new guys on the staff, they're going through a transition, too, where they're learning how we operate and our approach. Yet, we also want them to have their own individuality.
Q: Not to give away too much of the game plan, but what's your vision for this offense?
A: I would like to see us have a really good running game. I think that will open up the play passes and when you can have a run game, your protection is better and it can take pressure off the offensive line and it can take pressure off the quarterback. The passing game can be intermediate- to long-developing routes. I think when you develop a run game, that's what can be good and that's what goes to (quarterback) Blake's (Bortles) strengths.
Q: And a strong running game only helps a young quarterback …
A: And for the offensive line … if you ask the offensive line, they'd like to run the ball. You want to be able to line up and run it. We feel like we have a good stable of running backs. The acquisition of Bernard Pierce and T.J. Yeldon to go along with Denard Robinson, Toby (Gerhart) and Storm (Johnson) – along with (rookie Corey) Grant – there's great competition there as well. They're also different style of runners.
Q: You've touched on this topic of a strong running game a lot since the end of last season. Is this something that always has been an emphasis, or did it evolve?
A: I thought that right away. We really struggled running the ball, then we got creative to get some times where we did get over 100 yards, but I think it's really something where Oley (Olson), (assistant head coach-offense/offensive line coach) Doug Marrone, (tight ends coach) Ron Middleton … the whole coaching staff had a conviction to run the ball, not just lip service. I feel like these guys are convicted to run the ball.
Q: This team has felt so young for so long now – maybe younger last year than your first year, even. Does it feel like it's growing up?
A: I think they are a maturing team. I think they're going to be an aggressive team. I think the big thing we'll find out is the consistency. I think you'll see some splash plays and some big plays, but the difference between being good and really good is the consistency at a high level and playing good, smart football. That will be the challenge for our team and that's what we're challenging them on now.
Q: Fans understand competitiveness, but they want a number, too. Do you ever think about a number – i.e., how many victories will mean a successful season?
A: I just put all my mindset on, 'What do we need to do to improve?' I'm not saying to have a goal isn't important, but I do know if that's all your focus is on, you're in trouble. Our objective is to really get this team to improve and sometimes by giving them a number, it holds you back. I understand the fans want to know, that they want to understand where we're going and they have a right to that. But with our team, and with most teams, if they focus on the process rather than the outcome they accomplish great things, so we're trying to stay strict to that, but I appreciate the fans' question. The message to our players is, 'Winning is important but we don't need to win. I think when you need to win you start seeing an organization make irrational decisions. When that happens, there's panic and there's desperation and it's fear-based. That's 'need to win.' We don't want to need to win. We want to win. 'Want to win' is growth-oriented. It's rational decision-making. There's still urgency, so our message to players is, 'We want to win.' It's about the process. That's how we go about doing it. (General Manager) Dave (Caldwell) and I and (Owner) Shad (Khan), we've stayed true to that. Some of the acquisitions we were looking at in free agency, there was a point where it was, 'Is this a need-to-win or want-to-win decision?' We obviously stayed with the want to win. That's the message to the team – to stay convicted to that.
Fans showed up in full force to support the Jaguars during open minicamp on Thursday.
Q: Blake Bortles understandably has been the main story of the offseason. Your assessment?
A: It's probably a cliché, but his practice habits and how he performs in practice this year versus last year has been off the charts. We already know that he appears to be better on Sundays than he is in practice, so that gives us the idea that maybe he'll be even better on Sundays for us.
Q: Communication with players is important to you, and you obviously talk to Blake quite a bit. How is he handling this process? He's trying to do an awful lot under a pretty constant spotlight.
A: I think he's handling it very well. He has a unique ability to concern himself with him: 'What do I need to do?' He has that approach, but he can also transfer it to, 'I'm going to take care of my teammates and they're going to feel my presence as far as talking to them and having them go along with me.' He's very approachable and he's been doing awesome. That's one of the reasons we drafted him. His mindset and his approach – we knew it was unwavering. There's no uncertainty and no glitch in anything Blake Bortles does. That part we all love. And I think with success, everybody's going to feel that presence even more. He's doing this now and we're still in the learning process.
Q: You're always excited, but you seem excited to see what this group can do. It just feels like you like this group's chances to take a step …
A: I do and I'll tell you why: I think the challenge is different. The challenge is, 'OK, we have strong competition and that in itself is going to elevate our team.' I don't know if we could have said that for two years, so that part is different. I'm excited to see how far that can take this team. I think the defense has a mentality of, 'It's time. It's time for us to create this standard. We know what we need to do.' That's exciting to see how they're going to handle this. What happens through adversity? How are they going to handle this?' Offensively, there's so much excitement. It's just a matter of, 'Can we get this to be precise in a short period of time?'
A unique view from the Jaguars offseason program.