Seattle Seahawks defenders used to praise coordinator Gus Bradley for his attitude as much as for his schemes.
His new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have started wondering if he’s got some magical happy potion.
Bradley’s optimism and good nature will be tested now.
He returns to Seattle on Sunday as the coach of the Jaguars, who are noted for their impotent offense (11 points in two games) and recent status as a league doormat – which have combined to leave them as underdogs by a margin unheard of in the NFL – 19.5 points.
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So, the league’s worst offense meets the best defense (10 points) in the most inhospitable environment.
But the prospect didn’t dispirit Bradley at all, whose pleasant visit with Seattle media via teleconference came as an upbeat counterpoint to last week’s conversation with San Francisco’s prickly Jim Harbaugh.
“I think it’s important to be genuine with our guys,” Bradley said. “I try to be upbeat and positive, and to go through this whole process that way is important to me, and the challenge is to always have that attitude and hold guys accountable. Our guys have responded well.”
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew said Bradley’s approach is unlike any he has been around.
“Even the tough times we’re having now, he hasn’t changed,” he said. “We’ve grown to respect what he asks and the way he works. He always has a smile on his face. We’re trying to figure out if he has a magic potion to be happy all the time, but it’s exciting to see that. It’s contagious and a lot of guys are feeding into that.”
Seahawks players have said Bradley was always a genial man with a positive approach, and that alone made it easy to go to work. Late in the season or in tough stretches, having a coordinator who lifted you up every day with his energy and temperament was greatly appreciated.
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, for instance, said it didn’t matter if he showed up at headquarters at 6 a.m., Bradley was there and always “fired up.”
Bradley was coaxed to Seattle by coach Jim Mora in 2009 on the recommendation of highly regarded Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who called Bradley “a once-in-a-lifetime coach.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll replaced Mora the next season and liked Bradley so much he kept him as defensive coordinator. And in the next three seasons, Carroll saw him develop the characteristics of an NFL head coach.
“Gus is such a dynamic personality,” Carroll said. “He’s loaded with the kind of mentality and mindset and communications skills (and) the sensitivity that it takes to deal with people in all kinds of areas. I saw him in almost every light, and there was no question that he was preparing to do it … and there’s no question he was ready to go do this.”
Bradley, 47, says he’s frequently asked to second-guess taking a head coaching job rather than staying with a Seahawks team that stands as one of the best in the league.
“We’re trying to build something special, and I had the unique opportunity with the staff to really revamp our culture,” Bradley said. “Our owner, Shad Khan, is amazing and our general manager (David Caldwell) is amazing, so it really gives me the freedom to share our message, and the players have really embraced it.”
Bradley uses the same terms to address the challenges he faces, taking over a team that was 7-25 the past two seasons, as Carroll used when he took the job in Seattle. Both claimed it’s a matter of developing a winning culture.
“It’s a new challenge for me,” Bradley said. “To be involved in all three phases and handle the outside things. My position with our team is to try to help everybody do our best. I try to give our coaches the best opportunity to coach in an environment in which they can excel, and that’s what we’re doing with our players.”
The Jaguars, he said, are still making mistakes on the field, but he likes their attitude. And while he has no regrets about taking the job, he still has strong feelings about the Seahawks.
“I’m just happy for those guys,” he said. “I’m not going to stop caring for those guys; they’re very important to me. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if not for those guys, so I hold them in high regard.”