- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some leftover soundbites from a recent conversation with Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell on his team-building philosophy:
How would you describe what you are trying to build in Jacksonville with the Jaguars?
Dave Caldwell: Shad Khan is very passionate about this team and this city. When I interviewed here, he gave me the opportunity to interview other places before he offered me the job. His thought was "I want you to want to be here, and I want you to be part of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the community here. I think if you go explore other opportunities, you’re going to realize that." He was right. My heart was here. Same with Coach [Gus} Bradley. He had the opportunity to stay in Seattle. There were a couple other jobs he could have gone for, or waited another year, but he wanted to be a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wanted to be here with Shad, [president] Mark Lamping, myself, and the team we have here. We want people who want to be here. That’s our mindset. I think we’re slowly getting it to a point where people are going to want to come here. With our head coach and our coaching staff, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better situation. Conversely, when people leave here, we want it to be a difficult decision for them, kind of like it was for me when I left Atlanta. That was difficult, but it was difficult for the right reasons. Same thing, I want to treat our guys like Thomas [Dimitroff] treated me and if it’s a great opportunity, let’s get you that job. Let’s get coordinators head-coaching jobs, but let’s make it difficult because this is a great spot.
Why is Gus Bradley the right coach to lead the Jaguars, and for you as a co-builder of this franchise?
DC: The biggest thing is that he cares. Not just about being successful, but he cares about his people, he cares about his assistant coaches, he cares about his players. Not just from a professional standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. He is extremely genuine. When he speaks to you, or he speaks to a player, he’s not concerned about anything else going around. He’s not looking for his next conversation. He makes you feel like you’re the most important person at that time. I think that’s very important, when he’s talking to players, or coaches, whoever that might be, he has their full attention and they have his full attention. You saw that really quickly in the interview -- he is as genuine of a person as I’ve been around. He’s highly passionate. Highly competitive. He was willing to take a chance. When I said we’re going to build this through the draft, and play young guys early on, he was all for it. Throughout the interview process, our philosophies just aligned very quickly. Same with Shad. When Shad interviewed me, it was about continuous improvement. I said "that’s what I’m looking for." When I interviewed Gus, it was about getting better. Shad’s belief, all the way through, was about continuous improvement. The three of us were on the same page with that. That’s how we felt we needed to get better. That process was really good. I think it’s worked out well.
What have you focused on when it comes to hiring people around Gus and in scouting?
DC: I am a first-time general manager and Gus a first-time head coach, so there was a thought of "let’s use this as an opportunity to give other people their first opportunity." Marcus Pollard was a guy who we said, "let’s give him an opportunity" knowing he was going to have to grow into his role and become an expert in that role. A lot of our coaches -- Jedd Fisch, first-time offensive coordinator, Mike Mallory, first-time special-teams coordinator. [Assistant special-teams coach] Matt Smiley, we brought from college. [Quality control coach] Tony Sorrentino, we brought from college. We have a lot of youth. We have a lot of energy. Coach Bradley wanted great teachers, passion, and guys who were excited about being here. That was the biggest thing for us. That’s kind of what we did throughout the entire organization. Kyle O’Brien, college director. I felt like that if I was given my first opportunity, I could pay it back to people where it was important for them. That’s kind of how we approached this from a building and culture standpoint, and it’s been good. I love coming in here on daily basis with the camaraderie we have here.
How would you describe your approach of building the roster?
DC: We’ve made the commitment to build this through the draft. That’s part of the reason I took this job. Everybody says "I want to build through the draft, I want to build through the draft" but only a select number of them actually commit to it. I firmly believe in doing it. I know we’re going to go through some adversity doing that, but in the long-term, you’ll see success through it. Obviously, we have to pick the right players. I feel like that’s the way to do it, and I felt like this was a market we could do that. The owner is committed to doing it. The head coach is committed to doing it. That’s what we’re going to do. I’m not very patient, so sometimes I tell Shad and Gus, "remind me how we’re going to do this." We’re convicted in our beliefs in doing it. I think it can work here. One thing about Jacksonville, they’re passionate. The perception that maybe the nation has is not accurate, these fans are passionate. They love their Jaguars. It’s a very similar feel to growing up in Buffalo. That city loves their football team. They live and die with them. I feel very similar to the fans here, and the passion that the fans here have.