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Free agency ’14: Another good day

Posted Mar 12, 2014

EDITORIAL: Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s reputation showing up as a factor early in 2014 free agency.


JACKSONVILLE – The future is unknown, and as such, there are no certainties.

Still, if Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley’s feeling is right – if the vibe he has gotten the last few days is anything close to as good as he thinks it is – this much is true:

The Jaguars are continuing on the right path. Steadily and surely.

Get better? Isn’t that the credo the second-year head coach likes so much? Yeah …

In the last two days the Jaguars have done just that.

“It’s been good,” Bradley said.

Bradley spoke late Wednesday afternoon in a press conference at EverBank Field. He talked about the day’s free-agent signings – former Denver Broncos offensive guard Zane Beadles, former Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson – and spoke, too, of last weekend’s signing of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant.

As always, excitement was palpable. That’s Bradley’s default mode, as any Jaguars fan knows. But this excitement Wednesday shouldn’t be overlooked, either.

This was the excitement not only of a coach believing and liking the direction of a franchise, but one more and more seeing evidence others are liking the direction, too.

One of the most amusing moments of Bradley’s Wednesday media session was when he spoke of the free-agency process. He was somewhat surprised to learn some players agreed to terms before the head coach met personally with said player. He joked that it meant some other factor – read: money – might actually be involved in the process, and he said, yeah, maybe it zipped some of the zing from the head coach’s role in the process.

In the next breath, though, Bradley said that even without him talking personally with players, he was hearing that players were talking about the Jaguars. He said was learning that the Jaguars’ reputation – defined by Bradley’s positive, contagious approach -- was spreading, and that he had a feeling that had helped during free agency.

Beadles mentioned it when speaking to the media, as did Watson. Shoot, they *all* mentioned it, with Gerhart the most effusive of the bunch. He said Jaguars tight end Allen Reisner, whom he knew from their time with the Vikings, told him about it, and said the Jaguars were unlike any organization he would find. He said Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne said essentially the same thing.

Gerhart agreed to terms Tuesday, but if there remained a shred of doubt it vanished quickly Wednesday when in his first meeting with Bradley he experienced full-on GusMode.

“I’ve never been (around) anything like that,” Gerhart said. “I walked away and I was like, ‘I belong here. This is what everybody said it was.’ I’m completely at ease and happy to be here.”

Gerhart searched for words to describe the experience.

“Going through his power-point presentation … it really is … special,” he said. “I came out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?’ He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better. He talks about prosperity and adversity in a quick 10 minutes.

“I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write this stuff down.’ I was extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. You can tell things are going to get going. You’re going to want to jump on this train.”

Gerhart no doubt will have ample note-taking opportunities, but Bradley said his approach with free agents was less sales job and more desire for potential players to truly have a feel for him, for the organization.

“I gave them everything we’re all about,” he said. “I’m not going to BS them. Can you imagine? In five hours, they have to make a decision. I said, ‘I’ll give you all the information. You can walk out of here saying yes or no, but you know all of the information.”

So far in free agency, the approach has gleaned – or at least helped glean – the desired results. Beadles said Wednesday he had interest from five teams with five essentially similar offers, but said, “I had heard great things about Coach Bradley, wanted to be a part of that.”

“It came down to the way that I felt about the teams and where I ultimately wanted to be,” Beadles said.

That was echoed by each free-agent signee, but while there was that familiar air of giddiness around Wednesday’s introductory press conferences, there, too, was an accompanying feeling of realism that should be a good feeling for Jaguars followers.

These signings weren’t presented as cure-alls, and they weren’t meant to be such. They aren’t thought of that way by the organization, either. They’re pieces of a long-term puzzle for an organization that still wants to build through the draft. General Manager David Caldwell has talked since his 2013 hiring about wanting a sustainable model, and in the past few days that has meant negotiating the frenzy of free agency with a calm, reasoned hand.

“We’ve been smart on our decisions,” Bradley said. “We’ve been active, but we’re looking for guys who can fill a role for us. We’re looking at sustaining this, so we want to build pieces and get the right guys we feel can help us.”

The right guys. The right way. No, the Jaguars aren’t at path’s end, and maybe they’re not even halfway down, but once again Wednesday you couldn’t avoid a growing feeling that steadily, surely they’re walking in the right direction.

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