A packed house filled the West Touchdown club as Season Ticket Holders attended a private fan forum with Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell. Below is the full transcript of the 18-minute Q&A that followed the presentation.
Q: "How are Luke Joeckel, Roy Miller, and Geno Hayes progressing from their injuries?"
DC: "Luke broke his leg, had surgery, and has not left the building since. So we feel good about that. He's been here every day training, rehabbing. Nobody was more disappointed about a broken leg than him. He's itching to get back.. we actually have to hold him back because we don't want him to progress TOO fast. Roy Miller is doing a great job as well. He had shoulder surgery and has been here ever since. I actually saw him today and he's trying to stay in shape with not being able to lift and do other stuff, but he's doing really well. And Geno Hayes had minor knee surgery and all of these guys should be ready to go. Roy might not be ready for the first part of OTA's and Mini Camp, but once we make it to training camp all of those guys should be fully ready to go."
Q: "This is a very simple question, but might be deeper than that.. Where you from?"
*Loud applause and laughter*
GB: "1 Everbank Field."
Q: "How is Matt Scott and how does he compare to the QB you saw in Mobile over the last week."
GB: "Matt's very athletic. One of the things he has the ability to do is run and utilize his feet. You know, because we had four quarterbacks on the roster, we had him take some snaps at WR because of his athleticism and he did a really nice job. You can tell his heart is at playing quarterback. So he's really gonna compete this offseason. I think the first year coming in to it, decision making that goes along with it and all those key components are places he needs to grow. But he's an extremely competitive person and we'll see how much that one season, now that he's completed it, will add to his growth."
Q: "Third pick: Is there a certain position of need you're leaning towards this early? Also, discuss the lightning package Gus."
DC: "We have about 3-4 positions of great need right now, and we feel good at 3 about being able to fill one of those positions. We discussed the 3-4 positions we have to come out of the draft with a starter, and we feel good about doing that in rounds 1, 2 and 3."
GB: "Well I think the lightning package will be a big offseason focus for us. We all know we need guys who can affect the quarterback. We tried to get our best skill rushers on the field at once, and that's what the lightning package allowed us to do. Somehow, take the guys we have. Similar to Ace Sanders... because we didn't feel like we had a guy in the backfield that offered that "burst" like a Darren Sproles did. So we moved Ace and put him in the backfield some. That's how the lightning package came about. We had to try to find creative ways to get rushers on the field. Ideally, you'd like to draft them, free agency. Not only 2 rushers, but 4 or 5 rushers and utilize them, we might have to tweak some things to speed this process up. Maybe we play with 2 inside LB and 2 outside LB almost like two LEO on the field at the same time, so that's what we're exploring right now."
Q: "Have you looked at Bretty Smith, QB from Wyoming."
Long period of silence.. followed by laughter.
Q: "To go deeper, how many QB will you look at this year?"
DC: "We'll look at them all- we have looked at them all. Brett is one we've looked at in depth. He was a junior who we didn't know if he was going to come out or not but we had an inkling late in the season so we were able to see him. Was very productive at Wyoming and is an interesting prospect. But i'd say total, we'll probably look at 18-22 quarterbacks this year before the draft."
Q: "What's the status on MJD? Have there been negotiations?"
DC: "The latest on that is we're all in agreement that Mojo'd like to be in Jacksonville and we'd like to have him back. He knows how we feel about him, but there are a lot of things that go into play and we'll have to see how it plays out. I'm optimistic that something will eventually get done, but we have to be prepared in case it doesn't. So we'll see."
Q: "What you think your emotions will be Sunday watching the Seahawks defense you helped build play in the Super Bowl?"
GB: "Well, you know what? First of all, it's a hard question for me to answer because to directly answer that, I don't think it portrays my real feelings. I'm extremely, extremely happy to be in Jacksonville. It's an unbelievable place. And I know I was asked during the season "Gus if you--- stop right there.. I'm going to Jacksonville." I just love our GM, our owner, our fans.. With that being said, it is tough though because I was part of the guys that coached these guys for three years. And for me to ignore that fact, what message would that send our current players? I am pulling for them. I hope they play their best, they're good people and I wish nothing but the best for them- unless they're playing us."
Q: "What can you tell us about Justin Blackmon."
DC: "I think Justin is a tricky situation. A) There's only so much contact we can have with him per league rules and B) There's only so much we can divulge about the situation, per league rules. My understanding is he's doing better and he's really trying to work at the issues that are in front of him. The one that about Justin- he's not a bad person. When he was here he worked really hard, his teammates really liked him, his coaches really liked him. He just has some things he needs to sort out in his life and correct, and he realizes that, and we're pulling for him for no other reason than that he can live a healthy and happy life. Our support for him has nothing to do about the football perspective, it's all about the human perspective of caring for our employees and showing that we do care, and when they do leave here eventually, that they can live a productive life hopefully in the community of Jacksonville."
Q: "Gus, when Justin was on the field, he was a difference maker, right?"
GB: "Absolutely he was. We all love his talent and passion for the game and competitive spirit. I really like Justin Blackmon. We gravitated towards each other. Just so you know where my heart is, I believe it's a little bit collegiate. You feel like you can help him. And uh, I think that's where our mindset was. Not "okay, you messed up once let's move on." I think a guy like that, if he's willing to try to change, willing to get better-- how could you turn your back on a guy like that when that's what our message is all about. That part is difficult. But, there is a point in time it gets out of our hands. I think Dave said it best. We support him, wish nothing but the best for him, and hopefully he gets everything straightened out."
Q: "Will it be difficult considering the importance placed on the QB position for you to sit at 3 and have a QB there and NOT take him?"
DC: "No, I think it'd be more difficult to take the wrong QB at 3. You can see how that can set back an organization. It's really important to us to make a great organizational decision there. I believe our vision and philosophy was to continue to build this roster and make a really good team. In the mean time, if a QB presents itself to us that we're all on board with, we will pull the trigger. You look around the league and look at a team like Seattle that's playing in the Super Bowl. They're 3 years in to it and then they got Russell WIlson and then took off. But they didn't address the QB situation until then. Denver is another team that was/that had some QB issues *smirk/grin* and they continued to build a team and then when they got Peyton Manning they took off. San Francisco is another good example. They got Colin Kaepernick in the second round, but they built the team first and when they got Colin they took off. If there's a QB at 3 that we all feel comfortable with, we'll pull the trigger. If not, we're not going to make a huge mistake and bypass a potential difference maker to reach for a QB."
Q: "How have analytics helped Dave in draft and free agency and then Gus on coaching game days?"
DC: "It's always been a part of my scouting background. From my time in Indianapolis to especially my time in Atlanta we may not have called it analytics per se, but we used alot of statistical data to help us come to a good organizational decision. Certainly here we may have ramped it up a bit to help guide us toward good decisions or as we're getting close to making a decision to help raise a red flag and say "do we need to revisit what we're about to do?" So it's been a very productive tool for us.
GB: "Just put yourself in this mindset: Say you're a defensive coordinator and you're calling defense. The offense comes out and on 1st-and-10 they run the ball and you get a tackle for a 2-yard loss. What are they probably going to do? Pass, right?" Well, that's what analytics does for us. That's a real simple version, but they'll look at every ounce-anything that we can find to give us an advantage because offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators are creatures of habit. They can't help themselves and they follow routine no matter what game it is, so if you can crack that code it gives you a better chance to make an offense or defensive call you prefer. It doesn't guarantee success, but it definitely raises your chances, and that's what Tony Khan and his team does for us."
Q: "When did Gus develop your positive coaching philosophy and who from?"
GB: "Yeah, i think it's always just been a part of who I am. Fortunately, I've been around some really good coaches that was positive by nature and I've gravitated towards them. Monte Kiffin, Pete Carroll. I've just gravitated towards their positive nature because that's who I am. I was really fortunate to be around some guys like that who were really successful and I could say "Hey, I don't have to change. I can just be myself."
Q: "You immediately knew Gus was your guy, but did you go into the interview wanting someone that positive, or did it just win you over?"
DC: "It was something I was looking for. I knew the task we had at hand here. I knew we'd struggle early on- not only year one, but year two and when we started out 0-8 we've seen teams in the past go 0-16 or 1-15, and even next year we're going to have another group of young players and we'd have to have not just someone who was positive, but consistently positive. And that's what Gus has brought."
Q: "Of the QB at the Senior Bowl, which one stood out the most?"
GB: "Derek Carr had a very good week. He's a competitive person. Not only on the field, but we had many meetings outside of practice. Sitting in the hotel lobby, and just getting a chance to visit one-on-one and I thought he was an impressive person. The other quarterbacks had some traits- some guys had higher athletic ability and with some their mindset was a little bit higher, so we have to try to find that guy who has both and has the athleticism and mindset. We were fortunate to have 3 guys who showcased why they were at the senior bowl.
DC: "Overall it was a good group of QB's at the Senior Bowl. You have a lot of different genre's of quarterbacks. You have Derek Carr who is your more traditional drop back QB. Stephen Morris is a really polished QB out of Miami. Logan Thomas is a big, physical, raw talent. David Fales from San Jose State who is really accurate, really smart. Jimmy Garrapollo a small-school out of 1AA Eastern Illinois who was really productive and got to see him compete against the top-level talent and then Tajh Boyd out of Clemson was the 6th QB who is really athletic, really strong arm. It was really good to spend alot of time with all of those guys. We could not spend any more time with any of them and feel really comfortable if we were to draft them."
Q: "Dave, a little over a year ago when you were hired, it's well known you told Shad Khan that Luke Joeckel was the best player in the draft. Who is the best player this year?"
DC: "Well, you'll have to ask Shad. I've already told him and we'll see if he falls to three. I'll tell you this: I really like this draft especially the top 10/top 12 picks. One of the better drafts I've ever seen throughout rounds 1 through 6 or even 7. We are fortunate to have multiple picks in the 4th and 5th rounds. At the time when we did the Eugene Monroe trade I remember saying it's going to sting a little at first, but we'll be really happy come May when we have those extra picks and it's proved to help us out. Then we found Frenchie (Austin Pasztor) at RT and we have some extra picks and we plan on getting some good starters out of those picks."
Q: "How much value is at #3 and is it feasible to parlay that into more picks if there's not someone there you want at 3?"
DC: "Well, there is someone we want 3. I'll go ahead and say out of the top 3 players on our board, we'll definitely take one. Now who you think the top 3 players are is TBD. The value only comes if there's a demand for a pick and there may not be demand for a pick. For example, it may be a good OT year and teams may say well, there's no need to trade up because I'll take the 3rd best OT and upgrade. Or it might be a really good DE or WR year and a team says "Well.. Maybe if I can't (hypothetically) get Sammy Watkins I can take another player in the 2nd rd and still get better." Or, conversely it might be a really bad QB year and a team will say I have to trade up to get my guy. You won't know until about 3-4 days before the draft.