The first thing about Gus Bradley is that he is aggressively, almost militantly, positive, a dynamo of optimism, a whirling dervish of good cheer.
“I’m trying to figure out if he has some kind of magic potion to be happy all the time,’’ said Maurice Jones-Drew.
The second thing about Gus Bradley is that he is coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the consensus worst team in the NFL. They just got spanked by the woeful Oakland Raiders. The Jags’ offense has produced 11 points in two games. It’s hard to look at their remaining schedule and find a surefire win.
Yet Bradley is still exuding his upbeat outlook, to such an extent that Jones-Drew finally asked teammate Justin Forsett, who goes back with Bradley, if he’s like that all the time.
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“Oh, yeah,’’ said Forsett.
That attitude would seem far more natural coming from a team like the Seahawks, who are undefeated and have a legitimate chance to advance to the Super Bowl.
And that’s the third thing about Bradley: He was smack dab in the middle of all that, a lead architect of the stout Seahawks defense as its coordinator the past four years. It was under his watch that Red Bryant moved to a five-technique position, that the Legion of Boom was assembled and nurtured, that the Seahawks defense steadily advanced to its current position as one of the league’s elite.
But in January, Bradley left the Seahawks, voluntarily, to take on maybe the toughest rebuilding job in football. He is the Jags’ fourth coach under their second general manager and second owner since 2011, and if his first two games have revealed anything, it is the magnitude of the task ahead.
Despite all that, there still is seldom heard a discouraging word in Bradley’s world. He isn’t looking back with even a pang of acknowledged regret — not even as his two worlds collide Sunday in a game that just about everyone believes is destined to be a rout. And not in favor of the Jags, who are 19-point underdogs, the oddsmakers’ way of saying that this should be the NFL equivalent of Oregon vs. Nicholls State.
So, Gus Bradley, are you nuts? Surely, you must be second-guessing your decision to leave the football paradise that Seattle has become for the morass of Jacksonville — an NFL-worst 7-25 the past two seasons.
“People ask me that a lot,’’ Bradley said, and then makes it clear that they’re looking at it all wrong.
First of all, there are only 32 of these jobs, so you can’t always afford to be picky. If you’re a competitor, you thrive on the challenge. And if you believe in yourself, believe in the team-building concepts that were passed down from mentors like Monte Kiffin and Pete Carroll, then you don’t see a hopeless situation at all. You merely see the framework of future success.
“I wouldn’t be in this position I’m in right now if it wasn’t for those guys,’’ Bradley said of the Seahawks. “So I hold them in high regard. But this is a new step, and I’m really excited about our organization. We’re not where we want to be yet. But it doesn’t stop us from trying to get there as fast as we can.”
In the Seahawks’ locker room, Bradley is held in high regard. Richard Sherman laughed when he recalled the blast of energy that emanated from Bradley on the first day of training camp and didn’t subside until the last game — which last year was the bitter disappointment of Bradley’s defense being unable to hold a one-point lead in the final 31 seconds against Atlanta.
“The first time I met him, I thought, ‘man, this guy just drunk a Red Bull,’ ” Sherman said. “There’s no way he can maintain this throughout the whole season. But as you watch Gus, every single day he’s giving you the same energy, the same positivity, and you just can’t beat that.’’
Every Seahawks player I talked to said they knew Bradley was on borrowed time, that it was inevitable he would get a head-coaching position. But asked if he was excited for him when it came, Earl Thomas replied: “I wasn’t excited. I wanted him to stay.”
It’s now Dan Quinn’s defense, and so far there are no signs of any lapse — the Seahawks have been the stingiest unit in the league through two games. And Bryant laid out the ground rules for Sunday in unambiguous fashion: team trumps friendship.
“We wish him well, because we were with him for four years,’’ Bryant said. “But this week, we don’t know you. Our relationship and how we feel about each other, that’s on the back burner. After the game, we can be lovey-dovey, but we’re trying to handle business.”
Bradley says his paramount task is to “revamp our culture … we are trying to build something special.”
He helped do that once, but Bradley wisely is not running around telling everyone in Jacksonville how they used to do it with the Seahawks.
“That’s probably the last thing our players want to hear is about Seattle,’’ he said.
If the Jaguars eventually get where Bradley wants to take them — where the Seahawks are now — he’ll look back on these painful days as the time the groundwork was laid.
“That’s what I like about our team right now,’’ he said. “It hurts them when we don’t come out on the victory end. It really bothers them. But their attitude the next day is great.’’
I wonder where that comes from?