The Las Vegas Raiders have concluded their search for a defensive coordinator zeroing in on former Chargers assistant Gus Bradley.
Bradley has 15 years of NFL coaching experience, as he got his start as a defensive assistant under Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden in 2006 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bradley has been the coach in charge of the defense for the Seattle Seahawks (2009-2012) and the Los Angeles Chargers (2017-2020). As the Seahawks defensive coordinator, Bradley helped orchestrate the origins of the “Legion of Boom” defense, a team that went on to win the Super Bowl after Bradley had left to be the Head Coach in Jacksonville.
Bradley’s tenure in Jacksonville was a rocky one; however he was able to assemble incredible talent across the entire defense including drafting Linebackers Telvin Smith, and Myles Jack; Defensive End Yannick Ngakoue, and Cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Bradley’s success building a defense never materialized into wins and he finished his head coaching stint in Jacksonville with a record of 14-48. However the following year after his departure the Jaguars’ defense helped power the team one game short of the Super Bowl.
After Jacksonville, Bradley became the Defensive Coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. During his time there he continued to be a strong evaluator of talent and advocated for the Chargers to draft a bevy of players who would have made an impact in the NFL.
Bradley’s had a hand in selecting Defensive Backs Derwin James (1st Team All-Pro 2018), Desmond King (1st Team All-Pro 2018), and Rayshawn Jenkins (5 INTs 2017-2018), as well as defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (5 sacks 2017-2018), and Linebacker Kenneth Murray.
Bradley has a proven knack for identifying talent that fits his scheme and is well known for putting those players in situations where they can succeed. As a defensive coordinator his units have finished among the top 10 in points allowed 4 times.
Bradley’s defenses through the years
2020 LAC – 23rd (426 points allowed)
2019 LAC – 14th (345)
2018 LAC – 8th (329)
2017 LAC – 3rd (272)
2012 SEA – 1st (245)
2011 SEA – 7th (315)
2010 SEA – 25th (407)
2009 SEA – 24th (380)
To put these numbers in perspective, over the past 3 seasons with Paul Guenther in charge of the defense the Raiders have allowed 467, 419, and 428 points from 2018-2020. Under Bradley’s guidance, the Las Vegas Raiders defense is essentially a lock to improve in 2021.
Ultimately the Chargers coaching staff was fired at the culmination of the 2020 season allowing Bradley a chance to hit the open market. This past season was his worst in terms of points allowed but a deeper dive into the context allows for some hope.
First off, the Chargers special teams was ranked by Football Outsiders as the 2rd worst DVOA since they began charting these numbers over 20 years ago. Indeed the Chargers defense had to make due with the 2nd most disadvantageous field position in the NFL in 2020.
Even with opponents starting with great field position, the Chargers only allowed a team to pass for north of 300 yards twice (against Tom Brady and Drew Brees). Bradley’s defense held Patrick Mahomes to his 3rd worst QB Rating, Yards/Attempt, and 4th lowest completion rating of 2020. The Chargers also held opposing offenses to under 200 total passing yards 7 times in 2020, the team finished 9th in the NFL in pass yards allowed.
Bradley’s Achilles heel however in 2020 was the run defense, likely due in part because 7 defensive players were sent to the injured reserve during the season and Bradley being forced to start a rookie and a former safety as the starting inside linebackers for the majority of the season.
The young Raiders defenders will benefit from Bradley’s arrival. He is a proven communicator and game planner who prefers cutting his defenders loose and allowing them to play fast by simplifying their reads. Bradley summed up his coaching philosophy in a 2016 LA Times article.
“First and foremost, we want to play fast,” Bradley said. “There’s a lot of pre-snap and post-snap things that we go off of, but it’s basically a system where you give a variety of different looks to the quarterback, yet it’s simple for the players. Hopefully, there’s not a lot of thinking, and we can utilize our speed.”