His was the hottest name in league circles.
With numerous openings around the NFL at defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley was a coveted commodity on the market.
Reports and rumors circulated like wildfire how teams were lining up for a chance to bring Bradley on onboard since his contract with the Chargers expired at the end of the year.
However, what nobody on the outside knew was that there was only one choice Bradley knew in his heart was for him. That’s why on Tuesday night, the Bolts officially announced that the defensive coordinator was returning in 2018.
“First and foremost, this is what we were all hoping for,” he said. “That it would work out with the Chargers. So I can’t tell you how well they handled it. It was first class in everything; the communication. I think we all knew it would get done, it was just a matter of when and the timing. But I couldn’t be more ecstatic, and am very, very grateful for the opportunity.”
Bradley’s success in his first year with the Chargers has been well documented and undeniably profound.
The team allowed only 17.0 points per game, which was the third fewest in the NFL and the least the team has given up since 1992. They also boasted the league’s number one red zone defense and were third against the pass, giving up just 197.3 yards per game. The Bolts also forced turnovers at an impressive clip, ranking third in the league with 18 interceptions. In addition, they posted a number of negative yardage plays as their 43 sacks were the fifth-most in the league, while their 17 tackles for loss ranked third.
Add in the team’s success going 9-3 over the final three quarters of the season and it’s easy to see why coming back was the obvious choice.
“I’m unbelievably excited,” he continued. “The experience we had last year; I mean, first of all there’s disappointment at the end of the season that you didn’t get into the playoffs and get a chance. But when you take that aside, the whole season we went through starting from minicamp and OTAs, the relationships you build, and then to see growth as a team, it’s tough not to be excited about what’s taking place here.”
The relationships Bradley has with his fellow coaches and players was also a major factor.
“We always say in our meetings (our success doesn’t stem) from the calls,” he explained. “It’s the players who bring the calls to life. Anything that we accomplished last year, obviously you have to have very good players. A lot of the things and improvement that had been made is a credit to them, as well as a good coaching staff. Anthony Lynn did a great job directing this team. Our assistants did a good job on the defensive side with all the techniques and fundamentals. So it was a group effort, and I think we all appreciate one another.”
Nonetheless, despite all the success in 2017, Bradley knows improvements must be made. Even though the coaches were given a well-deserved break following the grind of a long season, he plans on returning to Hoag Performance Center early to get started on the offseason.
“We were talking about how we wanted to be a defense that played fast and played physical. We had a mindset to get the ball. I think we took really good strides towards that. And then, (we wanted to) play for one another. If you have a team that communicates well and handles adversity well, a unit like that, then you have a chance to be successful. But I think you’re never there. You have a standard where as a defense you want to have an opportunity to have a big-time impact on the game. That’s what we’re striving for week in and week out. We have a lot of growth to take place on our unit, and I think we’re all excited about it.”