The Los Angeles Chargers were big winners in January when they were able to land the highly-coveted Gus Bradley as their defensive coordinator.
Regarded as an excellent communicator and motivator, as well as a very detail-oriented leader, Bradley was on the market after a four-year stint as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 51-year old took a patient approach to rebuilding the Jags, amassing a 14-48 record over that span while accumulating young talent.
However, the Jaguars decided to make a change late last year, dismissing Bradley with two games remaining in the 2016 campaign.
This year, the Jags are one of the surprise teams in the NFL, combining a ferocious pass rush and opportunistic secondary with a punishing ground attack that has led them to a 5-3 record. They present a stiff challenge for the Bolts, who kick off the second half of their season this Sunday in Jacksonville.
Those inside the Jaguars organization, as well as those outside, give Bradley a ton of credit for building a strong foundation they believe will last for years to come. Still, it's only natural to wonder what goes through his mind, seeing a team he helped build have success after four-straight losing seasons at the helm.
True to form, his response is indicative to his inherent positive outlook no matter the situation.
"To me, you're happy for them," he said. "You can't not care for players that you were with for so many years. To see them do well and play at a high level, and some of them get rewarded because of it, I think that's cool. I'm all for that…. I think in the NFL there's a lot of really good people. (That's) what I've learned from the years I've been in it. Just really good people, and people that all want the same thing – at least where I've been– and Jacksonville was just another place that had a lot of really good people."
Although he's happy to see the Jaguars' success, Bradley's focus is on a Bolts team grateful to have him leading the defense. While it took a few games to hit their stride, which wasn't totally unexpected following a shift in scheme, the defense has been lights out over the second quarter of the season.
"This team here, I'm really amazed just at how they go about it," he said. "And I'm happy to see in a lot of areas that we're improving. Obviously, we've got some work to do."
In the last two games alone, the Chargers pitched a shutout of the Denver Broncos and then held the New England Patriots' number one ranked offense led by Tom Brady to only one touchdown.
Overall, the Bolts rank fourth in sacks (26), seventh in points against (19.0) and eighth against the pass (201.9 ypg). The team also features two players tied for fifth in the NFL and second in the AFC with 8.5 sacks in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
Still, it's only natural for Bradley to have extra motivation against his former team.
So, does he view this as a revenge game?
"No," he stated matter-of-factly. "I'm more focused on us and what we have to do."
Still, Head Coach Anthony Lynn believes Bradley's knowledge of the team and the scheme they continue to run is an asset as L.A. kicks off the second half of its season. However, that doesn't make it any easier a task.
After all, Lynn's assessment of the Jaguars sounds like a carbon copy of the Chargers' defense.
"They are very active," he said. "They're playmakers. They're physical. They're penetrators. That front seven is pretty good. Even their linebackers, they're fast. They fly to the ball to make plays. Any time you have that many hats to the ball, they create turnovers. This team has very good personnel…I think it helps. We are familiar with the team. Having Gus here to go into detail about this player and that player, that helps. But at the end of the day, players have to go out there and play."