Gus Bradley will be missed by anyone in the Seahawks’ organization or extended family who knew him, which is anyone who ever spent more than five minutes talking with the team’s defensive coordinator.
Make that former defensive coordinator, because Bradley was hired late last week to be the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars – just the latest step in his quick climb to the top of his profession.
It’s no surprise that Bradley got the Jaguars’ job, and almost was offered the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles before Chip Kelly veered away from the University of Oregon almost as quickly as he said he’d remain with the Ducks when the NFL first came calling.
Bradley possesses everything needed to be a head coach in the league. For starters, he knows his stuff, having learned the tricks of his trade first from Monte Kiffin with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then Pete Carroll with the Seahawks. But Bradley also has the intangibles necessary to deal with the requirements of the job away from the field.
Likeable? Definitely. Enthusiastic? All you had to do was watch him whirl around the practice field in January the same way he did in training camp last summer. Positive? Yes, even on Carroll’s staff, where it’s a prerequisite not just a plus.
Rocky Hager was Bradley’s coach and then-boss at North Dakota State. So if anyone should know it’s him, because that’s where Bradley’s rise that has been as swift as it has been surprising began.
“I would label Gus one of a kind,” Hager, now an assistant coach at Bryant University in Rhode Island, told the Florida Times Union. “It’s his personality, his enthusiasm and because he’s positive. He has the incredible ability to allow people to feel good about themselves and what they’re doing and will make them successful.”
Bradley doesn’t just possess these characteristics, he brandishes them. The proof is just how he went from assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at North Dakota State in 2005 to head coach of the Jaguars in 2013.
These stories have been told before, but they’re worth repeating because it’s the best example of just how impressive Bradley can be without really trying. His road to the NFL began when Kiffin, then defensive coordinator for the Bucs, called North Dakota State to talk to another member of the football coaching staff. Bradley answered the phone and by the time Kiffin hung up he said, “We’ve got to get that guy down here.” Asked if he was talking about the coach he had called, Kiffin said, “No, Gus.”
That’s how Bradley spent the 2006 season in the entry-level position as a quality control coach for Kiffin. The next two seasons, Bradley coached the Bucs’ linebackers.
In 2009, when Jim Mora was looking for a defensive coordinator on his first – and only – staff with the Seahawks, he had Dan Quinn in mind. Then Kiffin called and told Mora he had to at least talk to Bradley. As usual with Bradley, talk led to action. So Bradley was named the defensive coordinator and Quinn became the assistant head coach/defensive line coach.
Carroll arrived in 2010, which prompted another call from Kiffin on Bradley’s behalf. After another interview, Bradley was retained on Carroll’s staff, as was Quinn for that first season as D-line coach. The Seahawks’ defense ranked No. 9 in the league last season and was No. 4 this season, when it also led the league in fewest points allowed.
That’s when the rest of the league started to take notice of the 46-year-old Bradley, who also interviewed with the San Diego Chargers for their head coaching position.
As Hager put it, “That speaks volumes to the kind of person Gus is – he goes from Tampa Bay to Seattle and now he’s ‘The Guy.’ ”
Carroll saw this one coming.
“Gus did a great job for us the last three years and we are excited for him, his family and their opportunity,” Carroll said in a statement after Bradley was hired by the Jags. “He is a fantastic coach and we wish him all the best in Jacksonville.”
Carroll’s choice to replace Bradley? Quinn, who shares a lot of the traits that make Bradley so appealing. Quinn spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator for the University of Florida.
“Dan Quinn is an excellent teacher who is familiar with our system and allows us to maintain continuity,” Carroll said. “Dan did a great job for us in 2010 and I'm pleased to get him back.”
It was Quinn who offered perhaps the most-telling comment about Bradley, and what type of person and coach the Jaguars just hired.
“I’m thrilled for Gus. He’s a friend. So I’m fired up for him,” Quinn said. “And at the same time, I’m excited they reached out to me.”
Bradley wasn’t the only loss for the Seahawks’ football family, as John Idzik has been hired to be general manager of the New York Jets. Idzik wasn’t as visible as Bradley during his six-year stay as vice president of football administration, but the line of those whose behind-the-scenes efforts have helped the Seahawks get where they are starts behind Idzik.
Idzik handled the salary cap with the dexterity of
“John is a well-respected, life-long football man who I believe will be a strong addition to the Jets organization,” Schneider said in a statement after Idzik had been hired. “While he will be missed by the Seahawks organization, we wish him and his family all the best with this great opportunity.”
For the players, team success leads to personal accolades – like four Seahawks being voted All-Pro and six being named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad. For the coaches and front-office execs, it opens door to other opportunities.