AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Gus Bradley has kept close tabs on the Jacksonville Jaguars from afar.
Friends, colleagues, former players. Offseason moves, personnel changes, steady improvements.
The Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator will get to see everyone and everything in person Sunday, when Bradley returns to the place where he spent the previous four years and helped lay the foundation for a franchise is off to its best start in a decade.
Bradley has no idea what kind of reception he will get. He’s focused on what kind of performance he will get from the Chargers (3-5), who have won three of their last four .
“I haven’t thought much about it,” Bradley said this week. “It’s like another game week, where you look at a team and you study their personnel. I think it will be like all of a sudden, ‘Oh, we’re going to Jacksonville.’
“It will probably hit me a little bit late. It’ll be all good. My family is there still, so I’m sure I will get a chance to see them. But it will be different lining up on that other sideline.”
Bradley should hope for different results, too.
The Jaguars (5-3) fired Bradley nearly 11 months ago, parting ways with the gregarious head coach following a nine-game losing streak that capped one of the least successful coaching tenures in NFL history. Jacksonville won just 14 of 62 games under Bradley.
Progress was difficult to see at times and consistency was rare. Owner Shad Khan knew when he hired Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell that the rebuild would take time because it would be draft-driven process that would be supplemented in free agency.
“Shad had a great vision to create an organization that could sustain it and do it year after year,” Bradley said. “Sure, the beginning years are tough, but hopefully they’re starting to see the rewards. That coaching staff is doing a great job with it. They’re well coached, and the players are playing hard for them.
“I think more than anything the city of Jacksonville deserves this with some of the things they’ve gone through. They’ve been tremendously patient and now hopefully it comes together — just not this Sunday.”
It will be Bradley’s second cross-country trip in as many weeks.
He was in Jacksonville for part of the Chargers’ bye week. Bradley’s family — his wife, Michaela, and four children — stayed here after Bradley took the job on the opposite coast.
With just a few days home, Bradley split up his days for one-on-one time with each kid: rehab with his oldest son, a high school quarterback who recently had reconstructive knee surgery; dinner with his oldest daughter; shopping with the other; and fishing with his youngest son.
“Anytime you’re across the country, it’s always difficult and it takes a strong commitment with everybody,” Bradley said. “That’s what we’re doing. We visit, we talk a lot when we have time and we stay connected.
“It’s working. I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. I wouldn’t want to do it for three years in a row or anything like that. This is what was best for our family and our kids.”
Bradley had other offers from Seattle, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans, so he could have chosen to be closer, but he picked Los Angeles because of his relationship with first-year head coach Anthony Lynn and the personnel fit for his defense.
Bradley interviewed Lynn for Jacksonville’s open offensive coordinator position after the 2014 season.
“That was the first time I’ve ever met him,” Lynn said. “That interview went for about eight hours, which is about five hours longer than most. It’s because we connected. We hit it off. I just knew when I left the building that I wanted to work with him.
“I tell him all the time he’d still be in Jacksonville if he had hired me as OC.”
Even though Jaguars players knew changes needed to happen, they hated to see Bradley go.
And many of them have stayed in touch with a popular coach who has a knack for inspiring others.
“He’s very unique in his approach, and you get the feeling that he truly cares about his players,” veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “It was awesome to be with him for four years. Obviously we needed to win more. But the type of person that he is, I don’t think I’ve been around better. He’s a great man.”
A great defensive mind, too.
The Chargers, anchored by pass-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, are 19th in yards allowed (337) and seventh in points (19) in Bradley’s first season.
Jacksonville ranks third in yards (281), tops the NFL in points (14.6) and also has a league-leading 35 sacks .
“We said it would take time,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “I know a lot of people were getting tired and aggravated with the statement, but now the time has come. … Obviously, it’s a continuous process and we’ve got to keep it rolling.
“Gus definitely deserves a good piece of it.”
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