JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley took an unusual approach to finding a new defensive co-ordinator: He brought the front-runner along for every interview.
Bradley asked defensive line coach Todd Wash to sit in during conversations with four other candidates.
It was unconventional, uncomfortable and maybe even unnecessary. But Bradley wanted his close friend and longtime colleague to know exactly why he went in the direction he did. In the end, Wash got the job.
Bradley promoted Wash on Friday, putting him in position to help turn around one of the league’s worst defences. It’s a key position considering Bradley’s future probably depends on Wash getting it done.
"I got two phone calls from coaches who said, ‘That’s unbelievable and tells me something about Todd Wash,"’ Bradley said. "He has enough humility to sit in there and do what he thinks best for the organization and take it as a learning opportunity. I mean, who does that? … For what I put him through and had him do, much respect."
With Wash in the room, Bradley interviewed former Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz, Atlanta secondary coach Marquand Manuel, Miami secondary coach Lou Anarumo and Dallas secondary coach Jerome Henderson before making his decision.
"It was uncomfortable because in the back of your mind I think it’s just human nature that you want to be the defensive co-ordinator," Wash said. "You think you can do a great job at it. And when you see other people who are very good coaches, well-established coaches, and you respect them, that you know they can do a good job too, it’s just up to the organization to make the decision."
Wash replaces Bob Babich, who was fired earlier this month after Jacksonville gave up the second-most points (448) in franchise history.
Wash plans to make some tweaks within the scheme, but he mostly just wants the defence to play with more toughness, effort and discipline. He spent the last three years as the team’s defensive line coach and also served as defensive run-game co-ordinator in 2015.
Bradley and Wash have worked together for more than a decade, collaborating at North Dakota State and in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Seattle before Wash followed Bradley to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars have been one of the league’s worst defences during Bradley’s tenure, and they really struggled getting consistent pressure on quarterbacks and getting off the field on third down.
"I’m not going to get caught up in the stats and all that stuff," Wash said. "I just know that we’re going to play more disciplined than we have and we’re going to play assignment-sound football. I think that starts with me holding people accountable. Not only our players, but our coaches. I don’t float in the grey. Very black and white for me, and our coaches know that.
"If it’s not getting done, I’m probably not going to be too happy about it. At the same time, we have great coaches and some very good players that allow us to make these strides so we can continue to get better."
Wash got a two-year deal with his promotion. Jacksonville’s other coaches, including Bradley, got one-year contract extensions through 2017.
Bradley is 12-36 in three seasons, making little progress in the win column while working to help overhaul one of the least talented rosters in the NFL.
The offence made significant strides last season, with quarterback Blake Bortles and receiver Allen Robinson setting franchise records in their second seasons. But the defence — which was supposed to be Bradley’s forte — regressed. The Jaguars were near the bottom of the league in just about every major statistical category, and owner Shad Khan has made it clear that progress has to be evident in 2016.
"For an organization that we believe is ready to make its move, extending Gus through the 2017 season provides our club with much-needed stability in every respect," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "It solidifies Gus’ good standing with our current players, provides certainty for free agents who may be considering the Jaguars and helps to deliver the continuity throughout our coaching staff that we think is critical for us to turn the corner.
"It also gives us the best opportunity to win in 2016. I appreciate Shad supporting this approach as we enter a pivotal season with high expectations at every level of the organization."
Jacksonville also promoted Tony Sorrentino to assistant receivers coach, promoted Aaron Whitecotton to assistant defensive line coach, hired Daniel Bullocks as assistant defensive backs coach and promoted Mark Ellenz to director of college scouting.