Gus Bradley was available for the Los Angeles Chargers to sign as their Defensive Coordinator this offseason after being fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he had served as their Head Coach for the last four seasons.
Let’s get this out of the way: Gus Bradley was a terrible Head Coach.
He finished with an overall record of 14-48 with a team that was regularly projected to “make the leap” based off the talent they appeared to be adding each offseason via the NFL Draft and free agency.
However, the thought process that led the Chargers to bringing in Bradley (to replace John Pagano, who was still under contract) is that he’s a good Defensive Coordinator.
Well, you can slice this one however you’d like it. Let’s run through the numbers...
Gus Bradley’s Defensive Rankings
Yards Given Up:
2009 SEA: 24th
2010 SEA: 27th
2011 SEA: 9th
2012 SEA: 4th
2013 JAX: 27th
2014 JAX: 26th
2015 JAX: 24th
2016 JAX: 6th
Points Given Up:
2009 SEA: 25th
2010 SEA: 25th
2011 SEA: 7th
2012 SEA: 1st
2013 JAX: 28th
2014 JAX: 26th
2015 JAX: 31st
2016 JAX: 25th
2013 SEA: 1st in Yards Given Up & Points Given Up
2014 SEA: 1st in Yards Given Up & Points Given Up
2015 SEA: 2nd in Yards Given Up, 1st in Points Given Up
2016 SEA: 5th in Yards Given Up, 3rd in Points Given Up
How about now?
Gus Bradley’s resume is basically just a picture of the 2012 Seattle Seahawks (the year before they won the Super Bowl), but the Seahawks got better after he left and he was never able to come close to replicating that success with the Jaguars.
In a nutshell, it’s entirely possible that Bradley was just at the right place at the right time and isn’t a great Defensive Coordinator. The way his Jaguars’ defense was run also raises some cause for concern...
Bradley’s defense, which is run by former Seattle assistant Todd Wash, is a variation of the 3-4. It uses what is called a leo (weakside defensive end) and a big end (strongside defense end). The leo’s job is to get pressure on the quarterback on first and second down, and the big end’s job is to set the edge against the run. On third down, there are multiple leos on the field.
The defense also relies on cornerbacks playing press man coverage, the strong safety playing closer to the line of scrimmage to help with run support and the free safety in the middle of the field responsible for eliminating explosive plays. The Jaguars mix things up a bit, but for the most part, they keep things simple, especially in the secondary, where the defensive backs are drilled to stay on top to avoid giving up big plays.
Jalen Ramsey said he could have made more of an impact if given the flexibility to play different techniques, blitz more and play multiple positions, the way he did in college at Florida State. That's what got him drafted fifth overall.
Ramsey said he spoke with the coaches about doing some of those things but was denied.
"Every week, we ran the same defense," said Ramsey, who finished his rookie season with 55 tackles, 14 pass breakups and two interceptions. "We never changed defenses. We never changed plays. What we were running on first down at the beginning of the season we were running on first down at the end of the season. What we were running on second down, third down, same. Nothing ever changed."
Assuming that’s true, it’s easy to see why the Jaguars struggled to keep defenses out of the end zone against them last season and every year that Gus Bradley had been in charge. Anyone could come up with a great defensive scheme, but if it is the same every week the geniuses in NFL coaching rooms are eventually going to eventually find holes in it. What makes great teams is the ability to adjust.
What’s even more amazing might be the fact that Bradley’s staff didn’t make any changes to a scheme that clearly wasn’t working. What does that say about the coach’s stubbornness?
Perhaps Chargers fans should wait and see what Bradley’s Los Angeles defense looks like before assuming he’s going to be worlds better than what the team had last year with John Pagano (16th in Yards Given Up, 29th in Points Given Up).