CARSON (AP) — After the Jacksonville Jaguars fired Gus Bradley in December, he decided to focus on his family.
Bradley told his wife and four children he would run out the last year of his head coaching contract with school events and family time in North Florida, giving his support back to his biggest fans.
“But that didn’t go over so well with them,” Bradley said, laughing heartily in his new Los Angeles Chargers shirt.
Bradley’s family didn’t think the famously enthusiastic coach could — or should — stay away from football.
So Bradley got back in the NFL a few days later, agreeing to become new head coach Anthony Lynn’s defensive coordinator with the relocating Chargers.
“There were just so many reasons that this was a good place to be,” said Bradley, who went 14-48 in Jacksonville despite building one of the NFL’s best defenses by the time he left. “Everything kept pulling me here.”
Bradley and Lynn joined returning offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and special teams coordinator George Stewart on Wednesday to check out StubHub Center, the Chargers’ new stadium south of downtown Los Angeles.
During a break from work at Chargers Park, the coaches also saw the site of the team’s new training complex in Costa Mesa.
While they’re only at the start of an eventful year, Lynn and his new coaches believe they can announce their arrival in LA with a winning team backed by an uncommonly experienced coaching staff.
“To see everybody in the building, working together and interacting, it’s really good,” Lynn said. “We’re a football family now.”
The Chargers have one of the baldest coaching staffs in recent memory — among the four, only Whisenhunt has even a pittance of hair — but also one of the most experienced. Lynn has two former head coaches as his top two coordinators, while Stewart is entering his 29th season in the league.
As a veteran NFL assistant in his first top job, Lynn eagerly hired two former head coaches as his coordinators. Whisenhunt got the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl during eight seasons as a head coach with two teams.
“When I’m not sure of something, when I need advice, I can go to either of them,” Lynn said. “I have guys that I can lean on, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”
Lynn and Bradley met three years ago when Lynn applied to become Bradley’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.
While Lynn didn’t get the job, he left with a good feeling — and when their roles were reversed last month, Lynn persuaded Bradley to join him.
Bradley also has bonded quickly with Whisenhunt. The coaches matched wits twice a year for four seasons while Bradley coordinated the Seattle Seahawks’ dominant defense, and both are eager to test their new groups against each other in Chargers practice.
“You’re always trying to stay a step ahead, and what better place to get a step ahead than to go against Whis’ offense every day?” Bradley asked.
Whisenhunt said the Chargers essentially use the same systems and terminology installed in 2013 during his previous stint as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator before his two-year tenure as Tennessee’s head coach and his return to San Diego.
Philip Rivers has years of experience in the scheme, and Lynn sees little reason to make major changes.
Bradley will move the Chargers from a 3-4 defense under Chuck Pagano to a 4-3 set that will change the assignment of Joey Bosa, the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.
Bradley believes the Chargers’ current personnel will fit the system splendidly, and that comfort was another factor in taking the Chargers job over other offers.
Along with Whisenhunt, four offensive assistants and three defensive assistants from Mike McCoy’s staff stayed with the Chargers, demonstrating the front office’s belief that coaching wasn’t entirely to blame for their 5-11 record.
San Diego had an extraordinary confluence of injuries for the third straight year, losing top receiver Keenan Allen, running back Danny Woodhead, Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett and linebacker Manti Te’o early last season.
“You’d like to think we’re due for a year where we have a mostly healthy team for most of the year,” Whisenhunt said. “If we can get that, it’s going to be good, because we’re not starting from scratch here. We’ve got something to build on.”
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