Bradley soars from North Dakota St. to Seattle

Updated: February 5, 2009, 8:38 PM ET
Associated Press

RENTON, Wash. -- From Fargo to NFL coordinator, Casey "Gus" Bradley's career has certainly taken the fast track.

Just over three years ago, Bradley was an assistant at Division II North Dakota State. Now he's running the Seattle Seahawks' defense.

Unexpected? Closer to unfathomable.

"Yeah, I suppose so," said the 42-year-old Bradley, the youngest of six children in a family raised on Iowa State football back when it was the coaching cradle for Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill and Earle Bruce.

Bradley, who got his nickname from an older brother as a 2-year-old and hasn't gone by Casey since, can sure talk.

Former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin found that out when he cold-called Bradley after the 2005 season. He was seeking a reference on a colleague of Bradley's at North Dakota State, whom Kiffin was interested in bringing to Tampa Bay. But the more Bradley talked, the more Kiffin became interested instead in this smart, impassioned assistant who had been tucked away for two decades in Fargo and in Durango, Colo., at Fort Lewis College.

Jimmy Burrow, a former player of his when Kiffin was an assistant at Nebraska, was on the NDSU staff with Bradley earlier this decade. So Kiffin called Burrow, now Ohio University's defensive coordinator.

"I think he's better than I am," Burrow told Kiffin.

One interview with former Bucs coach Jon Gruden later, Bradley had talked his way into being a quality control coach for Tampa Bay. The next year, when Joe Barry left for Detroit, Bradley became the Bucs' linebackers coach.

"The more he did things for me, I said, 'Wow!" Kiffin said Wednesday by cell phone while touring Tennessee to celebrate recruiting. He is now his son Lane's defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee.

In Tampa, he had Bradley present the run-defense game plans each Wednesday. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, now the Bucs' new coach, gave presentations on pass defense.

Most NFL assistants do ho-hum PowerPoint slide shows to diagram plays in these meetings. Bradley's presentation was different.

"He took it to another level. He would show the guy running the ball and then cutting into a hole," Kiffin said, laughing. "You had to be there to see it. Shelton Quarles, Barrett Ruud, Derrick Brooks, they all couldn't believe how good Gus was. When he walked in, he was one of the most popular guys in that building. And he was just a quality control coach! He has such a presence."

Last month, Seahawks coach Jim Mora was assembling a new staff in the days after taking over for Mike Holmgren when Kiffin called. He had worked with Mora years ago in New Orleans and still calls him by his first and middle initials.

"Hey JL, listen to me. I have got a guy here in Tampa that is one of, if not the finest, football coaches I have ever worked with," Mora recalled Kiffin saying. "He's an A-plus. He's a once-in-a-lifetime coach. You need to talk to him. His name's Gus Bradley."

Mora had never heard of him. Yet he brought him in for an interview. It was supposed to be a business-hours meeting. Mora was still thinking New York Jets assistant Dan Quinn may be his next coordinator to fix a unit that finished 30th in league in total defense and last against the pass while Seattle slumped to 4-12 in 2008.

Mora picked up Bradley at his hotel at 8 a.m. He dropped him off at 11 p.m.

Through breakfast, lunch, dinner and a cardio workout together, Mora and Bradley found themselves similarly turbocharged on football and on life. They watched film. They drew X's and O's. They talked personal habits, families, "Tampa Two" pass coverages.

"I spent 15 consecutive hours with Gus," Mora said. "I mean, it was thorough."

After it, Mora made Quinn his defensive line coach and vaulted Bradley to replace John Marshall as defensive coordinator.

"Through the course of the day, I realized, 'Boy, Monte is dead-on. This guy is special.' He's grounded in fundamentals. He's got great energy," Mora said. "He has conviction about what he wants to do, coupled with the flexibility to be open to new ideas."

Added Kiffin: "Mark it down. He will be a head coach in the NFL."

Bradley almost scoffed when asked if it blows his mind to be running an NFL defense three-plus years out of North Dakota State.

"No. My focus is to get this thing back on track and get going in the right direction, which I believe we can," he said, flatly.

"Let's go. We need to get better. I don't think about that."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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