Austen Lane is an outside linebacker in his fourth year out of Murray State attempting to make the Kansas City Chiefs' roster. He's new to Kansas City after spending three seasons in Jacksonville before getting cut last month.
He wrote about the experience of getting the news every NFL player hopes to avoid for MMQB.com (spoiler alert: it's sad), but along the way he gave an enlightening inside look at what makes new Jags' head coach Gus Bradley a successful coach.
At 8:40 a.m. on D-Day, Lane and the rest of the team assembled for a meeting. He writes...
The entire team heads into the main meeting room inside our stadium practice facility. We wait with great anticipation for our coach, Gus Bradley. While some meetings you might feel a little bored, and have to rely on sunflower seeds or chewing tobacco to stay awake, Coach Bradley’s meetings are full of laughter, entertainment and inspiring stories. The best way to describe Coach Bradley is this: Imagine a kid on Christmas morning waking up, bounding down the stairs, seeing all the presents under the tree, and ripping open gift after gift. That’s how he feels about football, and that’s how he comes to work every day. Like with most of his speeches, I find myself today holding back the urge to spit out water or fall out of my chair because I’m laughing so hard. While it is a relaxed environment I always leave the meeting feeling motivated and having a new sense of confidence to be the best player I can be. Might be corny, but it’s the truth. I’m really excited about playing for this guy.
Being a head coach in the NFL, is about a thousand different things but at its heart, coaching is about motivating and inspring players to be the absolute best they can be. If you can do that, you'll succeed in this profession. If you can't, you won't.
Half an hour or so later, Lane was effectively an unemployed NFL player. Sitting in the fateful meeting with Lane and general manager Dave Caldwell was Bradley. As Lane describes it:
Coach Bradley (who has been silent the whole time) tells me to come to his office. As I get there, the numbness starts to leave. I now comprehend what is going on. And now the sorrow starts to rise. Coach Bradley thanks me for the hard work and toughness I have brought to the team. After wishing me luck and telling me that he is always here for me, I decide to say what is on my mind.
I tell him the truth, and the dam that was holding the sorrow back starts to give way. I tell him that even in his short time here having him as a coach was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing the game. I tell him it was an honor having him as a coach and that the team is heading in the right direction. I wish him the best of luck and give him a hug.
I'm no NFL roster expert so I can't tell you exactly how much talent the Jaguars have (or don't have), but judging by last season's 2-14 record, I can safely tell you Jacksonville probably won't be making a playoff run during Bradley's first season. But if a guy who was just told in no uncertain terms to pack his stuff and leave was ready to run through a wall for Bradley, I'd be willing to bet the 53 guys who stick around will be willing to do the same.