The NFL season is in full poach-a-coach mode, and it has arrived upon the Seahawks doorstep: With a quarter of NFL head coaches fired, both coordinators are in play for some of the vacancies.
It is not unusual. It is always awkward.
The Seahawks are successful, although two playoff wins in the past three seasons are somewhat modest. But it’s enough to make the defense’s Gus Bradley and offense’s Darrell Bevell warm items. They must make room in their preparations for Sunday’s game in Atlanta against the Falcons to be wooed by suitors, while convincing players, media and fans that they are not distracted.
“It’s flattering,” said Bradley Thursday, finishing his fourth year with the Seahawks when the defense allowed a league-low 245 points. Then he proceeded to do the dance of diversion.
“I know people talk about our entire focus is on Atlanta, and it really is,” he said. “I mean, it’s so important to us. We’ve worked so hard to get to this point and our whole message to the team is just keep raising the bar, keep getting better and better every week.
“They’re talking that and we’re talking that so it’s easy to stay focused on it. It’s flattering, like you’ve all heard before, but really our entire focus is on Atlanta and trying to do everything we can to get one step closer.”
He saying all the right things, and the Seahawks are saying all the right things, including Pete Carroll, who said the attention was “cool” with him, and that both coaches were well-deserving.
But let’s be real. Bradley is a 47-year-old married father of four who played ball at North Dakota State, then spent 15 years coaching college in the prairie wilderness, and now he might be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles? And it’s not a distraction?
C’mon. This is the like the bishop who sees a stunningly beautiful woman walk by and kicks out a stained glass window. The tantalizing fantasy is inches away, yet maddeningly beyond the grasp.
Of course Bradley is distracted. Will it make a difference Sunday? Hard for anyone to say. And in any event, no one is going to rat out a guy for calling a bad game. That would be violating the code of the NFL: In a ruthless, cruel business driven by big money and plagued by head-snapping turnover, every man gotta eat and no man should stand in his way.
Once his Seattle defense allowed only 15.3 points a game, Bradley was fated to be on a rocket ride to the limelight. The Seahawks defenders are suddenly and nationally renowned as cool, tough, smart hombres.
Obviously, he’s only a job candidate, and may well be back in Seattle next season. And it’s not any more of a distraction for the Seahawks than it is for the Falcons, whose own defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, interviewed for the same job of succeeding Andy Reid.
Given the fleeting, fickle nature of the NFL, Bradley looked to be on his way to blowing his chance Sunday, when the Redskins went on full-field marches to go up 14-0.
As you may have read, the game outcome worked a little better for him.
“Well we’re not a team that talks about starting fast,” he said. “We just don’t want to get too caught up in that. I think it’s important that we want to play the whole game fast and explosive, regardless of what happens the first series.
“We know we’re going to have to make some adjustments as the game goes on, but the biggest thing is to keep our poise with the crowd noise and things like that — nothing that our guys haven’t come across before.”
Bradley was given some quality weapons by Carroll and GM John Schneider, but he has devised schemes that have worked against heavy-run offenses and heavy-pass offenses such as Atlanta’s. The in-game reversal at FedEx Field — 74 total yards surrendered after the first quarter — certified him as an agile agent change.
Sunday, he has to adjust to the loss of perhaps his best front-seven defender, end Chris Clemons, who led the Seahawks with 11.5 sacks but went down with a season-ending ACL tear at Washington. The cupboard is hardly bare, with first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin ready to start.
“We obviously miss Clem but the next guy’s up and we’ll be okay,” Bradley said. “We always talk first about the quarterback and his style – how does he extend plays? Does he move and throw it? Does he move and run? Matt Ryan does both.”
And Gus Bradley has to both — coach and dream, without either affecting the other.