By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.c
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As they embark on a rebuilding plan they don’t doubt could take a while, the Jacksonville Jaguars are steering clear of things other teams talk about on a daily basis.
Coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell don’t talk about winning games or success in standings or statistics.
It’s not because of expectations — which they don’t talk about much, either.
It’s because the franchise’s leaders believe it puts the focus too far out and makes it too broad.
“It really simplifies things for the players,” Caldwell said. “Don’t set yourself personal goals. Just work at getting better, and everything else will come.”
What will better look like?
Caldwell said he doesn’t know, “nor do we care” to a high degree. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about winning, he said, just that emphasis on winning turns into a distraction that players can’t actually manage.
Caldwell hired Bradley from Seattle, where he was defensive coordinator for Pete Carroll.
“It’s something that I’ve always believed and Coach Carroll helped me to make sense of it,” Bradley said. “I believe so much in the process. I think when you look ahead and do all those things, you forget about enjoying the process. We want to really compete, have our guys go hard. It’s going to be uncomfortable, they are going to get better at their techniques but also enjoy it. And when you look ahead, sometimes you miss those opportunities.”
“They can hear ‘winning’ from us, because winning is defined by us as when a person is maximized,” Bradley said. “If we can get a guy to get to his highest level, then we win, that’s how we define it. That’s how we talk about winning.”
The new leadership came to the philosophy through Bradley, not as a reaction to anything coach Mike Mularkey did in his one season coaching the Jaguars.
They were well on their way to a 2014 season that earned them the second overall pick in the NFL draft, and Mularkey was still talking about contending for the division, talk many players tuned out.
“His mindset is for everybody to go out there and give what they have and live with the results,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “He’s instilled in us that we don’t have to worry about expectations, that kind of thing will just take care of itself. I think that creates an environment which allows us to be able to just go out there and give it all we’ve got, and live with the results, and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch also worked under Carroll in Seattle.
“We don’t talk about goals on the offensive side of the ball, we talk don’t talk about what we need to get done to win X amount of games or to put ourselves in position. Our whole philosophy is, ‘Did you play better yesterday than you did today?’ That’s not good. If you played better today, we’ve succeeded in our goal. That’s the only thing we ask for.
“We ask our guys to continue to believe if they improve, the rest of it happens. I think it’s been an easy sell to our players, because (a) it’s a little bit different that what they’ve heard and (b) all we’re asking they to do is control what’s in their control.”