MOBILE, Ala. – We're here.
And most of the rest of the NFL will be joining us soon.
Coaches from 28 teams. Scouts from all of them. Old faces in familiar colors. New faces behind new logos. College players dreaming NFL dreams. Hotels, restaurants and streets full of scouts and personnel types trying to get a better feel for how realistic those dreams may be.
Yes, it's Reese's Senior Bowl week once again …
And ain't that grand?
If you love the NFL and the draft, darned right it's grand. And cool, too. The Senior Bowl, where the Jaguars' coaching and personnel staff will arrive later Monday to spend the week coaching the South team and scouting players from both sides, is grand and cool – and at the same time it's something else.
It's one of the most unique weeks of the NFL calendar.
The Jaguars are coaching this event for a second consecutive year. That's bad in one sense because it means the team wasn't good last season. The Senior Bowl coaching slots go to the teams with the worst records in the NFL whose staffs were retained from the previous season.
The Jaguars got the call last January after a 4-12 record in Head Coach Gus Bradley's first season. They got the call this season after Tennessee accepted its opportunity to coach and after Tampa Bay and Head Coach Lovie Smith passed on their chance.
The Jaguars accepted their opportunity – jumped at it, really.
And while any staff prefers the Super Bowl to the Senior Bowl, to the Jaguars it was a no-brainer. Yes, Bradley – who reportedly spent Sunday interviewing former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase for the same position with the Jaguars – is still searching for a coordinator as the week opens. But the Jaguars got real, tangible benefit from this game last January. Aaron Colvin, Telvin Smith and Chris Smith. Brandon Linder. The first three played for Bradley and the South team last year; Linder played for the North team.
Colvin, Telvin Smith and Linder were perhaps the team's three best rookies last season.
It's hard for a benefit to get realer or more tangible than that.
So, why coach the Senior Bowl a second consecutive year? If that's your question, that's your answer.
And if you're asking just what makes the Senior Bowl a cool event, here's that answer:
For one, it's the unofficial beginning of the NFL offseason, and the first time many coaches and old friends have seen one another since last year's Senior Bowl. While coaches attend the NFL Scouting Combine in February, many only attend days involving their position groups. At the Senior Bowl, pretty much all are here except coaches from Sunday's AFC and NFC Championship Games.
The entire NFL crammed into one tiny Southern downtown?
Assistants, scouts, head coaches shoulder to shoulder in hotel lobbies, valet waiting lines and maybe a hotel restaurant or two?
OK, it ain't Brad Pitt in Hollywood or Will Smith in Cannes, but for an NFL junkie, it ain't bad.
The Senior Bowl also retains a down-to-earth feel rare in the NFL these days. It's the first of a few NFL offseason conventions, with the others being the Scouting Combine and NFL Owners Meetings. But the combine has become a big-time media event. The owners meetings? That's more about head coaches and owners, and besides, it's a ritzy, five-star affair with $25 breakfasts, morning massages and poolside dining.
The Senior Bowl ain't high-end or ritzy, and that's OK. This event, while televised by NFL Network, still maintains a football-first, ritz-second feel, and if you want to dine by the pool you better bring a blanket most years.
The Senior Bowl is purely about football. It's about standing on the sidelines at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on a cool Tuesday morning, and making the drive to Fairhope High School for the afternoon practice. It's about the lobbies of the Battle House Renaissance and the Renaissance Mobile Riverview crammed full of coaches. It's about crossing Mobile Bay on a gray, misty Alabama morning, and ordering chicken biscuits from the McDonald's drive-thru before the morning practice. It's about Nick Saban making his annual entrance at practice on Tuesday, and the media flocking in tow. It's about coaches whispering in hallways and out-of-work assistants hitting up old friends on the Fairhope sidelines for a job, or a recommendation.
It's about a chance to see college players one last time before they get full into Pro Day/Combine mode, and if it's not about seeing a whole lot of Top 10 players, it's about seeing a slew of Day Two and early Day Three guys.
And, of course, it's about the garb …
You want to see NFL logos? Come to Mobile, Alabama, in late January. Jackets. Caps. Hats. Sweatpants. Sweatjackets. If Nike slaps a logo on it, you'll see it, and if any part of you thinks Rex and Lovie and Gus are cooler than Brad and Will, then this is the place for you.
They're all here – most of them, anyway. If they have jobs, they're working; if not, they're working to get one. Either way, it all gives the Senior Bowl a grass-root feel that's unique to the NFL calendar.
It all starts Monday, and yes, we're here. And ain't it grand?
If you love the NFL, you're darned right it is.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley led the South team to a 20-10 win in the Senior Bowl.