Getty Jon Gruden of the Las Vegas Raiders.
After interviewing a number of top candidates for their defensive coordinator vacancy, the Las Vegas Raiders have come to a decision. On Tuesday morning, the team announced the hiring of former Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Welcome to Las Vegas, Coach.
We have hired Gus Bradley as our defensive coordinator » https://t.co/8xRvXKpKnH pic.twitter.com/trpr74atDI
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) January 12, 2021
Bradley, 54, was rumored to be the favorite for the job earlier this month, but the Raiders continued to interview a number of other candidates. Instead of hiring an unknown individual, Jon Gruden decided to stick with what he knows.
Bradley’s Journey to Las Vegas
Bradley previously served as Gruden’s linebackers coach in Tampa Bay from 2006 to 2008. After his time with the Buccanneers, the veteran coach was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, where he helped build the “Legion of Boom,” which became one of the best defenses of the last decade.
His success in Seattle landed him his first head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He lasted a little less than four seasons there before getting fired in 2016 with a 14-48 record.
After his departure, Bradley was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Chargers. Los Angeles only allowed 17 points per game during his first season with the team, which was the best in the NFL. The Chargers dropped to 11th in 2018 before falling even further in 2019 to 13th. This season was Bradley’s worst year on paper, as his defense ranked 22nd in the NFL in scoring defense. That said, the Chargers’ defense was devastated by injuries this season so the Raiders clearly didn’t put too much stock into it.
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Was This the Right Hire for the Raiders?
There’s no denying that Bradley is a solid defensive-minded coach with a track record of assembling some of the best defenses in the league. However, a big concern for Las Vegas should be the laundry list of elite talent Bradley has had to work with at his past stops. Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby aren’t on the same level as Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
Now, Bradley does deserve a lot of credit for developing talent. Ingram didn’t make a Pro Bowl until Bradley arrived, and there are numerous other players the Minnesota native has helped develop into difference-makers — such as Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in Seattle and Telvin Smith in Jacksonville.
He’s a very different coach than the since-departed Paul Guenther and that’s probably a good thing. He’s got his work cut out for him, but if Bradley can fix the 30th-ranked Raiders defense, which allowed 29.9 points per game in 2020, he could potentially set himself up for another head coaching gig down the line.
Will Bradley Add Notable Coaches to His Staff?
In addition to Bradley, the Raiders were reportedly interested in Raheem Morris, Joe Barry and Kris Richard. According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there’s a chance the team tries to add one or two of those guys to their staff.
FYI on @Raiders: Don’t be surprised if they end up putting together a defensive staff that also includes candidates they interviewed for the DC job.
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) January 8, 2021
Given his track record, Richard makes a lot of sense as the defensive backs coach for Las Vegas. He coached under Bradley in Seattle and under current Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in Dallas.
Morris would also be a very good hire, but there’s a good shot he gets a head coaching or defensive coordinator job after an impressive stint as the Atlanta Falcons’ interim head coach this season. The 44-year-old guided Dan Quinn’s reeling 0-5 Falcons to a 4-12 finish, while coming close to knocking off a pair of Super Bowl contenders in Kansas City and New Orleans down the stretch, both losses of five points or fewer.
Barry is currently enjoying a lot of success under Sean McVay as the linebackers coach for the Los Angeles Rams. It was there that the 50-year-old played a key role in the development of Cory Littleton, who blossomed from an undrafted free agent in 2016 to a versatile Pro Bowler and special teams ace for the 2018 NFC champions.
After garnering some interest around the league last offseason, it appears Barry might not want to give up his current situation for the same job in Las Vegas.
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