By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
The greatest thing Gus Bradley has done as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars is something that may be more valuable than teaching his players about pass blocking or the new defensive scheme from Seattle.
Bradley has taught these players how to not only be competitive, but to also have fun. While a key ingredient to any new recipe is to stick to a game plan, there is something to be said for having fun with a sport that children play everyday.
The fun of it will help keep this team loose.
The Jaguars have had a successful off-season by most standards. Success in free agency (with the possibility of signing Beanie Wells still an option) to a great 2013 NFL Draft (Luke Joeckel, Johnathan Cyprien and others) and a new culture at EverBank Field. Even the two blips on the radar (Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Blackmon) are situations that can be coached through.
And how do the Jaguars have fun during OTAs? Three words-- Home Run Derby.
If there was ever a chance to see grown men get excited about something other than putting on pads and learning how to play their position, it was the home run derby the players participated in on Friday as a way to end the week or practice and a way to build strength through comaraderie.
While I am not one who knows all the inner workings of how this came about or who planned it, it falls in line with what Bradley has done with the culture of this team. Football (like baseball) is a sports men play for millions of dollars while children play it in sandlots, playgrounds and grassy fields daily.
The smiles on the faces of Isaiah Stanback’s face or the look in Chad Henne’s eyes said it all. Even if it was for a few brief moments, these “men” were boys again, having fun with a sport they were not getting paid for, living the moment and basking in the glory (even if they did not clear the fences). It’s these moments which make for memories and maybe have players talking about when they are asked what helped this team come together to win a division crown or fight adversity to claim a wildcard spot.
If it takes something we played as little kids to help this team learn to win and give everything they have on the practice field for their new head coach, then I am all for it. And the fans of this franchise will be all for it too, if Bradley can lead the team to the postseason.
Then, it’s a homerun for all of us.
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