The Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as the franchise’s fifth head coach Thursday, the latest move in the team’s rebuilding project.
The 46-year-old Bradley joins general manager Dave Caldwell, who led the coaching search after being hired last week.
“It was just a matter of time before Gus Bradley became a head coach in the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are extremely fortunate that Gus will be on our sidelines for many years to come,” Caldwell said in a statement. “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 spent the last four seasons in Seattle, earning a reputation as a fiery assistant who demanded — and often got — the most from his players. His defense improved each of the last three years and finished in the top 10 in points and yards the last two. This season, the Seahawks ranked first in points allowed (15.3), fourth in yards (306.2) and tied for fourth in takeaways (31).
The Jaguars were 30th in the league in total defense in 2012.
“I had faith that Dave would make an outstanding hire, and my faith has been rewarded,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. “Gus Bradley is perfect for our franchise. The energy he will immediately bring is incredible and I am confident the victories will follow.”
Bradley will be formally introduced at a news conference Friday morning.
“Shad Khan and Dave Caldwell expect to win, and that’s what I wanted to hear,” Bradley said. “That’s why I am coming to Jacksonville — to win a Super Bowl.”
His liveliness seems to be a good fit with Caldwell, who oozed confidence during his introduction last week. Caldwell pointed to his “track record of success,” adding that he has “never been a part of a losing team.” He also openly shot down any chance of bringing in New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow, a bold move in Tebow’s hometown.
Caldwell came across like the polar opposite of former general manager Gene Smith, who showed little emotion in his four years at the helm.
Bradley probably will look equally outgoing compared to former coach Mike Mularkey, who was known for taking a calm and consistent approach to everything — including losing.
The new coach started his NFL coaching career with Tampa Bay as a defensive quality control coach in 2006. He was the Buccaneers’ linebackers coach the next two seasons before going to Seattle. Bradley coached in college from 1990-2005, including two stints at his alma mater, North Dakota State, and four years at Fort Lewis College (1992-95).
But his rise through the NFL ranks had him on several teams’ radar. Before taking Jacksonville’s head coaching vacancy, he interviewed for the head job in Philadelphia this past week.
“He’s got a brilliant football mind,” Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said this week. “He’s got a way of reaching people and touching people and getting the best out of them, coaches and players alike. He’s got everything that you’re looking for.”
The Jaguars interviewed defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden before striking a deal with Bradley.
Bradley replaces Mularkey, who went 2-14 in his only season in Jacksonville. Mularkey failed to make the team any better in his first season.
Khan fired Smith, the architect of the roster since 2009, and charged Caldwell with turning around one of the league’s worst franchises. Caldwell’s first move was ousting Mularkey, saying the team “needed a fresh start.”
Many believed Caldwell would target close friend and college roommate Greg Roman, San Francisco’s offensive coordinator.
Instead, Caldwell and Bradley will team up in hope of getting the Jaguars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Jacksonville has missed the postseason 11 times in the last 13 years.
No surprise that Bradley inherits a team that lacks playmakers on both sides of the ball.
The Jaguars have running back Maurice Jones-Drew under contract for another year and have young and talented receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III. But the offensive line was a mess in 2012, adding to the team’s quarterback woes.
Neither Blaine Gabbert nor Chad Henne proved to be the answer under center. Caldwell said he had “others in mind” to compete for the starting job.
Defensively, the biggest issue is generating more consistent pass rush.
The Jaguars had a league-low 20 sacks this season. Philadelphia Eagles cast-off Jason Babin helped down the stretch, but the team will likely use the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft to find a pass rusher.
Bradley’s defense had several young stars.
Defensive end Bruce Irvin, the 15th overall pick last April, led all rookies with eight sacks. Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round draft pick, ranked second among rookies in tackles with 140 and fourth with three interceptions. Safety Earl Thomas was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, second-year cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with eight interceptions and defensive end Chris Clemons had a career-high 11 1/2 sacks.
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