Jerry Sullivan has probably forgotten more about the NFL than many of us have learned in his 46 years as a coach. The well-traveled wide receivers coach has been here in Jacksonville for the past four season, remaining on Gus Bradley’s staff after the team fired Mike Mularkey after the 2012 season.
Retaining Sullivan, who is thought to be somewhat of a wide receiver whisperer, might have been Bradley’s best move once he joined the organization.
After working with the current crop of receivers on this roster, it is one of the better moves of the Bradley-David Caldwell era.
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While Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have tremendous athletic talent, it cannot be ignored the kind of impact Sullivan has had on these two wideouts. If Marqise Lee can remain healthy and give the Jaguars the top end speed he possesses in the open field, this is a unit that could one of the best – if not the best in the league this season.
Sullivan was one of the first to express his excitement for Hurns when he signed his four-year, $40 million contract extension last month. As Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union wrote, it is Hurns who is one of Sullivan’s greatest success stories.
An undrafted free agent out of Miami who becomes one of the best at his position. That’s what Sullivan’s impact can do for a youngster getting his feet wet in a veteran’s game.
Sullivan has mentored some of the best of his career, including Anthony Miller, Herman Moore, Shawn Jefferson and Anquan Boldin. And when he talks about Hurns being a “special” player (as he does with Robinson), he knows what he’s talking about.
“Early on, you could see he had some good football instincts,” Sullivan said. “That was a rough year, but he grew and he listened and he worked hard at being good. You could just see him getting better and how important it was to him.
“I’m thrilled for him,” Sullivan said. “From my standpoint, in my later years of coaching, it’s a privilege to coach Allen and all of these guys.”
Sullivan’s resume is one most coaches would be envious of. He started out at Kansas State in 1971 and hasn’t looked back. The Florida State graduate has been in San Diego, Arizona, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami and Jacksonville. That’s a lot of frequent flyer miles and a heck of a lot of players he has mentored toward greatness.
One Last Hurrah
At 71 years young, this might be Sullivan’s last stop on the NFL coaching circuit. It has been a wild ride. Working with the Jaguars trio might be his best work. For the organization, it is one of the best jobs anyone has done in the Bradley-coached era. And Sullivan continues to teach like he first did on the college level.
It’s possible this is a franchise that could post three 1,000-yard pass catchers at some point and most of the credit will be attributed to Sullivan’s work. The Jaguars hadn’t had a 1,000-yard pass catcher since the days of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. He has certainly changed the culture of the position and the unit.
As long as there is success on this team in the passing offense, Sullivan will be credited with developing a solid nucleus of talent.
Robinson, Hurns and quarterback Blake Bortles may get all the attention and the accolades, but the real secret of their success is how Sullivan come on board and taught these young talents how to be NFL stars.