By John Boyle
Gus Bradley, the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator since 2009, is leaving Seattle to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bradley was considered one of the top assistant coaches available and had been linked to several job openings around the league. He interviewed twice with the Philadelphia, but the Eagles instead chose Oregon coach Chip Kelly. A day after the Eagles passed on Bradley, however, the Jaguars named him their head coach, hoping he can turn around a team that won just two games last year, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007.
“It was just a matter of time before Gus Bradley became a head coach in the NFL,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said in a press release, “and the Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely fortunate that Gus will be on our sidelines for many years to come. Gus more than met every criteria we insisted on from our new head coach, and his intangibles and leadership abilities are exceptional. Gus is who the Jaguars need now and in the future.”
Bradley, who was the longest tenured coach on Seattle’s staff — Pete Carroll retained Bradley from Jim Mora’s staff — helped lead a young defense that went from promising a couple of years ago to being one of the best in football in 2012. The Seahawks ended the season giving up the fewest points in the NFL, and fourth fewest yards.
In recent weeks Carroll and Seahawks players all maintained losing Bradley would be a blow, but that he deserved a shot to be a head coach.
“It’d be a tough blow to lose Gus,” cornerback Richard Sherman said Monday. “We have other coaches who would step up and run the same things we’ve been running, but he’s a great coach, he’s enthusiastic, he’s energetic, he’s a player’s coach. There aren’t enough verbs and nouns in the dictionary to describe all the great things about Gus Bradley. … He’s great. He deserves everything he’s getting.”
The hiring is the latest step on a remarkable climb up the coaching ladder for the 46-year-old Bradley. As recently as 2005, Bradley was the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State, his alma mater, and he jumped to the NFL in 2006 as a quality-control coach in Tampa Bay. Bradley landed that job only because he happened to answer the phone when Monte Kiffin, Tampa’s defensive coordinator at the time, called to ask about another Bison assistant, Willie Mac Garza. That conversation about Garza eventually became one about football in general, and Kiffin came away impressed enough with Bradley to bring him in at an entry-level job. Bradley was promoted to linebackers coach a year later, then in 2009, he was hired by Mora as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. When Carroll replaced Mora and was assembling a new coaching staff, he received a call from Kiffin, a long-time friend and mentor, who offered some advice on hiring a defensive coordinator.
“There’s one right in the building,” Kiffin told Carroll. “You don’t have to look far.”
In a phone interview in September, Kiffin predicted that Bradley would be an NFL coach soon.
“He reminds me of (Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin,” Kiffin said. “We hired Mike at 29 years old out of the University of Cincinnati. It didn’t take long to know that Mike was special, and I knew from Day 1 that Gus was special. He’ll be a head coach in the NFL. He’s got no panic. Some people do, it doesn’t mean they’re not really good coaches, but Gus, he’s special. When he interviews, he’ll knock your socks off. I’m not trying to pump him up, but I know what he is. He’s put it on tape up there.”
As for what the Seahawks will do, they have candidates in house who could be promoted, including Rocky Seto, Seattle’s defensive passing game coordinator who also coached under Carroll at USC. Dan Quinn, the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, was previously the Seahawks’ defensive line coach, and could end up back in Seattle.