Gus Bradley vs Chip Kelly


Gus Bradley vs Chip Kelly. It sounds like a boxing match between two up and coming, small market fighters. In truth, Gus Bradley vs Chip Kelly could theoretically become a theme for the NFL and it may just become the feature fight each year. Like Bill Belichick vs Tony Dungy, Bradley and Kelly represent a crop of up and coming coaches who could someday be the title contenders year in and year out. As good as it was to see Peyton Manning take on Tom Brady, it was also great to see the masterful, scheming Belichick take on the sheer determination and calm of Dungy. Those Indianapolis vs New England matches were some of my favorites to watch.

Bradley and Kelly have shown they have the chops and attitudes to be the heavyweights of the future.

Sunday is the first time they will go head to head and I hope it marks the beginning of a rivalry between the two coaches. Kelly’s clever, innovative offensive mind vs Bradley’s stout, pounding defense.

Last year the two coaches entered very different situations with their teams and both found success.

Kelly opened the door on a completely disheveled, mismanaged mess of talent and opportunity. He had to sort through a quagmire of personnel and coaching that was stuck. A talent-heavy squad had squandered opportunity under Andy Reid, resulting in a 4-12 finish the year before. Kelly was able to turn it around in year one. He took the team from the basement to the top of the division, ultimately losing in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Bradley left an up and coming team the year before they won the Super Bowl and entered an absolute train wreck in the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags were a team that was managed poorly by its head coach and general manager. Sold as being a few “pieces” away from a perennial playoff team, they finally looked themselves in the mirror in 2013 and brought in Bradley. Last year’s 4-12 finish wasn’t leaps and bounds better than the 2-14 finish under Mike Mularkey the year before, but the entire culture of the team changed and the approach to the game developed further under Bradley’s one year than it had for the years before his arrival.

Aug 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley before the preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Neither of the two coaches are anywhere near finishing the tweaking and re-tooling they need to go through to become the elite coaches they both have the potential to become.

Kelly’s offensive prowess propelled the team last season, but he will need to find a quality defensive coordinator he can delegate to improving a porous defense. Very rarely do teams succeed in the games that matter – the playoffs – when one side of the ball can’t stop the opposition from passing. Some re-tooling will need to be done on the personnel side before the defense can be brought up to the same level as Philly’s vaunted offense.

The Jaguars struggled, largely due to an anemic offense. Meanwhile, its defense – particularly its secondary – quietly put up a solid year. The Jags showed increased development in the latter half of the season, especially against the run. For Bradley to be successful he will have to turn a lot of attention to revamping the personnel on offense. The offensive line is particularly weak and the wide receiving corps is unproven heading into his second season. He is starting three rookies of four total wide receivers in the season opener.

It will be strength vs strength for the Jaguars vs the Eagles on Sunday. It will be exciting to see how much progress both teams have had in the past year. Football is a complete game from the coach to the players and seeing the Kelly and Bradley on the sidelines will be a fun thing to watch during the game. I wish them both success in the long run and hope they can go head-to-head more.