RENTON, Wash. -- When Pete Carroll agreed to be the Seattle Seahawks' head coach in January of 2010, he brought in all his own assistant coaches, except one. He kept defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on the recommendation of the man who had taught Carroll so much through the years. Monte Kiffin, the current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, met Carroll when the two men worked together on Arkansas' staff in 1977.
Kiffin hired Bradley as a quality control coach in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and when Carroll was looking for his next defensive coordinator in Seattle, Kiffin made it very clear: Pete, you already have the guy you need. Bradley, hired as Seattle's defensive coordinator in 2009, was retained, and has excelled teaching Carroll's defensive concepts to a young and rapidly improving Seahawks team.
“I knew great things about Gus before I even arrived because he’d worked with Monte, and Monte had recommended him so highly," Carroll said this week. "Because we had the time, I said, ‘Gus, let’s just hang out, let’s just talk, talk football,’ it took 10 days or something before we ever made call on what we were doing. I just wanted to get to know him. I had the assurance that he had his background squared away and he was great and all that, I just needed to get to know him and hang out with him.
"After being around him, he’s got a tremendous personality. He’s got a great work ethic, he’s got a brilliant football mind, he’s got a way of reaching people and touching people and getting the best out of them—coaches and players alike. He’s got everything that you’re looking for and we’re fortunate. He’s had a great couple years with us now—three years with us now—we’re playing the best football that we’ve played and we can still get better and he knows it and will keep pushing for it. It’s really a great relationship that we have and we’ve been very lucky to have him.”
Carroll may not have Bradley for long. The Seahawks finished first in scoring defense in 2012, and as a result, Bradley is one of the hotter under-the-radar names among NFL teams still looking to replace their recently fired head coaches. Bradley, who is preparing for Seattle's Sunday afternoon divisional-round matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, will interview with the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, and will reportedly speak with the San Diego Chargers.
“It’s flattering," Bradley said this week of the attention. "And I know people talk about our entire focus is on Atlanta, and it really is. I mean, it’s so important to us. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point and our whole message to the team is just keep raising the bar, keep getting better and better every week. They’re talking that and we’re talking that, so it’s easy to stay focused on it. It’s flattering, like you’ve all heard before, but really our entire focus is on Atlanta and trying to do everything we can to get one step closer.”
Kiffin recently told Paul Domowitch of Philly.com that any team would be lucky to have Bradley in that head role.
"I've told people I've talked to in the last week or so, if you interview him, there's a good chance you'll hire him," Kiffin said of Bradley. "He'll walk in [to the interview] and take over the room. Philadelphia should strongly consider hiring him. I think he's special."
As Domowitch points out, the Eagles could certainly use some help with their overall defensive philosophy. The unit first coached by Juan Castillo and then by Todd Bowles in 2012 was a complete disaster allowing a franchise-record 33 touchdown passes, amassing a league-low 13 takeaways and tying for 29th in the league in points allowed.
Kiffin said that while Bradley has never been a head coach before, he has the world-view to get the job done."He was born to be a head coach," he said. "I'll tell you that right now. I promise you. He will be a head coach in the NFL and a good one. He's great with players. They really respond to him. They work hard for him. He's a great people person. The fans will love him. The players will love him. Everybody in the building will love him. He's tough, but he knows when to pull off. He knows when to be tough and when not to be tough."
Carroll's endorsement was similarly positive, but as someone who has made that jump from coordinator to NFL head coach, he did provide a bit of fair warning when I asked him about that particular move.
“You have no idea what you’re getting into," Carroll said. "You don’t have any idea of the multiplicity of the job. There are so many things that come up that you’ve never had to deal with before and that you’re not prepared for. What you have to be able to go to is philosophy. If you 'snap judgment' on somebody [and fire them] after a year or two years, you don’t know. You haven’t benefited from learning on the job. There’s no preparation for this job but to do it. There’s nothing like it. It’s a big jump. That’s why to me, the things that guys who are hiring people are looking for is guys that have their act together in terms of what they believe in and who they are and there’s a consistency that you can sense. Then you have to guess that they’re going to stick to it when they get under the microscope. It’s a big step, though.”
According to the people who know and work with Gus Bradley, he has those characteristics. Whether he gets the call this year of in the near future, it seems certain that he'll hear it sooner than later.
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