JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It makes sense that the Oakland Raiders top the list of teams for which players would least like to play. The Raiders' reputation as a rudderless organization, the fact they haven't had a winning season since 2002 (which was the last time they made the playoffs), and having to share their stadium with the Oakland As are all reasons players view the franchise that way.
Buffalo and Cleveland coming in second and third isn't a surprise, either. It shouldn't stun anyone that the Jaguars came in fourth, as well. The franchise hasn't had a winning season since 2007, has won just 11 of 48 games in the past three seasons, and is located in a small market. However, I get the feeling that if this survey were to be done again in three years the Jaguars' spot on the list will be much better.
In a column in mid-March I wrote that coach Gus Bradley was becoming a draw for free agents. Money and fit in a team’s scheme are still the most significant factors for free agents, but Bradley is beginning to gain a reputation around the league as a coach who is good to play for. More importantly, he is becoming known as a coach who is fun to play for.
Here's what recent free-agent acquisition Toby Gerhart told me about Bradley:
"I’ve never seen anything like that. Meeting Gus, it was unlike anything I’ve … I walked away, and I was like, ‘Yes, I belong here,'" Gerhart said. "I actually was going away coming out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?' He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better and the positive, prosperity and adversity. All this stuff he talked about in a quick 10 minutes. I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write some of this stuff down.’
"I was enlightened and fired up and extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. I can see why everybody spoke so highly, and you can tell things are going to get going and you’re going to want to jump on this train."
There are other things that can make the Jaguars a franchise players want to join. The weather might be brutally hot in the first part of the season, but it's great in November and December. No frigid days to make hitting the ground feel like running into a cement wall. Plus, there's no state income tax in Florida.
Those two reasons might be why Green Bay came in fifth on the list. It can't be because of the culture or tradition or the fact they're one of the league's top teams and nearly a playoff lock as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy.
The Jaguars under Bradley and general manager David Caldwell are headed in the right direction. Writers and analysts who cover the league, some for a long time, have written and said that repeatedly over the last several months. Now that it looks like they've hit on Blake Bortles, the positive vibes for the franchise will only increase.
Maybe there will still be some bias against Jacksonville, which doesn't exactly have the kind of nightlife or draw of Denver, New York or even Seattle, but if the Jaguars continue in the direction in which they're heading, they'll eventually be further down the list of least desirable teams for which to play.