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Re-Energizing the D
Gus Bradley got an interview for the position of Seahawks defensive coordinator as a favor to Monte Kiffin by new Seattle coach Jim Mora.
Kiffin, a long-time defensive guru in the NFL, had worked with Jim L. (for Lawrence) Mora in 1995 when both were on the New Orleans Saints staff of Mora’s father – Jim E. (for Earnest) Mora.
“Monte says, ‘J.L., listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not the finest football coaches I have ever worked with,’ ” the younger Mora said, slipping into his best Kiffin impersonation – punctuated by a high-pitched, rapid-fire delivery.
“ ‘He’s an A-plus. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him.’ ”
The channeling of Kiffin continued, with an even higher pitch and even faster pace, as Mora added, “He said, ‘J.L., this guy is special. You have to bring him in. You have to talk to him.’ ”
So Bradley got his interview and, as it turns out, it was Kiffin who was doing Mora a favor. Mora and Bradley spent 15 consecutive hours together back in January, talking about everything from ways to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks to how they like to spend their downtime.
“Through the course of the day, I realized, Boy, Monte is dead on,” Mora said. “This guy is special.”
Not to mention Energetic (yes, with a capital E), and Passionate (yes, with a capital P).
“There’s a lot of energy coming out of that guy,” said middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, the team’s leading tackler the past four seasons. “We enjoy it. And I’ll tell you what, no one is going to fall asleep in his meetings.
“When he’s talking, you know.”
Offered Bradley, “To me, obviously I love the NFL and love Seattle, but I really love to coach. It really doesn’t matter what level, as long as I’m coaching.”
Bradley’s meteoric rise from quality control coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006 to overseer of revamping the Seahawks defensive in 2009 is only part of the Kiffin/Bradley connection.
Kiffin discovered Bradley at North Dakota State, where Bradley was the defensive coordinator from 1997-2002 and, after a four-month stint as head coach at Fort Lewis College, again in 2005.
“Discovered” might not be the right word, however, since Kiffin actually called the football office at North Dakota State looking for, well, let Bradley tell the story.
“We had a really good defensive backs coach at North Dakota State at the time, and he was highly recommended to Monte Kiffin,” Bradley said. “So Monte Kiffin actually called up to North Dakota State wanting to get more information about our secondary coach – Willie Mack Garza (who’s now at the University of Tennessee with Kiffin on the staff of Kiffin’s son, Lane).”
One of those first calls went to Bradley, but it wasn’t the last between the two.
“We had multiple conversations, and the conversations went from Willie Mack to where, ‘Hey, would you be interested in possibly another job we have open as a quality control coach?’ ” Bradley said.
“So I went down there to interview with four or five other guys and ended up getting the job. It was just a freak deal.”
So freaky that Bradley never even mentioned the possibility of interviewing for an NFL job to his wife, Michaela. Instead, they went on vacation to Jamaica.
“When I got back to the States, there were 15 phone calls from Monte Kiffin,” Bradley said. “It was out of the blue.”
Bradley returned the calls, went to Tampa for the interview and got the job. North Dakota State to Tampa on a whim is even freakier than Tampa to Seattle on a recommendation.
Bradley, who turns 43 next month, was born in Zumbrota, Minn. But he’s about as North Dakota State as it gets. He played his college ball there, as a safety and punter. He began his coaching career there, as a graduate assistant in 1990-91, when he added a second degree in physical education and masters in athletic administration to the business administration degree he already had. Bradley also met his wife at North Dakota State and they now have four children – Carter, 9; Anna, 7; Eli, 5; and Ella, 1.
It took an opportunity to become defensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College (1992-96) to finally pry Bradley out of North Dakota. But not even the chance to be head coach could prevent Bradley from going back to his roots. When North Dakota State called and offered the D-coordinator position, Bradley grabbed it – despite never coaching a game as head coach at Fort Lewis College.
“Fort Lewis had three head coaches in six months and all of them are now in the NFL,” Bradley said of a trio that also included Seahawks first-year wide receivers coach Robert Price and Todd Wash, the defensive line coach with the Buccaneers.
“I hated to leave them hanging, but the connection to North Dakota State – and the attraction to North Dakota State – was just too great.”
It was at North Dakota State that Kiffin found Bradley, and the rest is the stuff of a made-for-TV movie where a “based on a true story” tagline definitely would be needed because the facts seem so farfetched.
Now, Bradley finds himself surrounded by an eclectic staff that shares his passion for the game – linebackers coach Zerick Rollins, assistant defensive backs coach Larry Marmie and assistant line coach Mike Phair, holdovers from Mike Holmgren’s staff; line coach Dan Quinn and secondary coach Tim Lewis, also newcomers to Seattle; and, of course, Mora.
“When I’m in that room with those guys, it couldn’t be a better situation,” Bradley said. “There’s that old saying, ‘It’s amazing what you can get accomplished when you don’t care who gets the credit.’ That’s what our room is all about. We just check our egos at the door.”
It does, however, matter what you call him. It’s Gus Bradley. Not Casey “Gus” Bradley, and definitely not just Casey Bradley.
When did given name give away to nickname? Prince says it happened when Bradley got to Tampa.
“The word I heard, he dropped the Casey when he went to Tampa because the linebackers said, ‘Hey, we’re not having a linebackers coach named Casey,’ ” offered Prince, who was the offensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College when Bradley the defensive coordinator.
Bradley remembers it differently.
“I don’t know if that’s accurate,” Bradley said, breaking into eruptive laughter. “There might be embellishment there.
“I’ve had the nickname Gus since I was probably 2 or 3 years old – back before I can even remember. I have three older brothers and one of my oldest brothers gave it to me.”
By any name, the guy from North Dakota State and Tampa was the right – if not the obvious – choice for the Seahawks.