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View from the O-Zone: An unconventional, critical time


MOBILE, Ala. – This situation isn't exactly "ideal."

That's pretty obvious as 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl week gets rolling, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley pretty much said so shortly after he rolled into town.

"This is a little unconventional," Bradley said with a laugh Monday evening.

Bradley spoke just on the second floor the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza Hotel just after arriving, where he and the Jaguars' coaching staff will coach the South team at the Senior Bowl.

It's the second consecutive year the Jaguars have coached the game. A year ago, the staff did it in relatively conventional fashion, missing only a linebackers coach.

This year? Well, yeah, "unconventional" is one way to put it.

The Jaguars are coaching the game – a task Bradley takes very, very seriously – without an offensive coordinator. More significantly, they're beginning the week without knowing exactly who the coordinator will be. Bradley dismissed former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch December 30.

The Jaguars are deep into the process, perhaps close to the end. The guess here is a hire is made this week – well before Saturday's game.

But it's not done. And that makes the start of this week a bit different.

There are a bunch of names floating around. If you've been following, you know the primary names are Adam Gase, Greg Olsen and Doug Marrone, and you know there are scenarios – all as yet unofficial – involving all three. You also know the Jaguars are saying nothing officially, because there are a lot of coaches involved – some currently on staff – and a lot remains uncertain in the process.

That doesn't make it easy. In fact, it makes it difficult.

Throw in a trip to the Senior Bowl and you have a lot of moving parts all moving at the same time. You also have one of the most unconventional weeks of Bradley's tenure as head coach.

"We always say, 'We love challenges, so it's a great challenge,'" Bradley said Monday.

Bradley's always intense, and always up. He was both again Monday, and it wouldn't be accurate to say you sensed a more intense, focused version.

But it would be right to say that as Bradley arrived at the Senior Bowl he did so with a sense of the importance of the hire.

The Jaguars have interviewed seven candidates, and as of Tuesday, the search has taken three weeks. That's not a long time or a short time; that's not a lot of candidates and it's not a few.  There's no right or wrong way to hire a coordinator and reshape a staff. This is not a race.

The objective is to get it right, and Bradley talked Monday of Jaguars players putting trust into him to do just that. He talked of feeling a responsibility to others as well.

"The team is trusting me to make the right hires for them," Bradley said. "The city of Jacksonville and our fans are putting trust in me to make the right hire, as well as our organization. It's something I take very seriously. We want to do our due diligence and really look under every rock to try to find the best candidate."

That's where the Jaguars are as Senior Bowl week begins, so part of Bradley's focus is there. A huge part. At the same time, make no mistake:

That Senior Bowl head coaching position?  His role as the leader of the South team?

Whatever the status of the coordinator search, that's a role Bradley takes very seriously. One reason is the Jaguars got a whole lot of out of this game last season. They found four good players here – Brandon Linder, Chris Smith, Aaron Colvin and Telvin Smith – with the team gaining significant knowledge of the Smiths and Colvin when working with them on the South team. The Jaguars believe the personnel edge is significant, and that's a huge reason they're coaching again.

Bradley, too, felt the game benefitted the Jaguars from getting more about their approach – and the organization they're building – known. The NFL saw the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl and what they saw was good.

But beyond that, Bradley said he takes this game seriously because there is a team of players depending on him and the staff. The Jaguars are coaching this game for a second consecutive year, but the players on the South team? This is their one chance to play in it, and it's the beginning of their one pre-draft process.

"They're counting on us," Bradley said. "This is a big deal. It's a great opportunity for them and it's a great experience. A lot of it is back on us as a coaching staff to make it a great experience. The NFL is filled with distractions.  We have to eliminate those distractions so they can be their best. That's all they're asking from us."

That's what Bradley said the staff will deliver, unconventional week or not. And unconventional week or not, it's darned important to Bradley – all of it.

And it all keeps rolling in Mobile on Tuesday.

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