After brief chaos and uncertainty surrounding the Oakland Raiders situation with their assistant coaching staff after inside reports swirled that Mark Davis was sticking his feet in the ground on offering unconventional one year deals to all of his assistants, and the ramifications of talented coaches leaving the Raiders, the drama has seemed to calm.
Offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tony Sparano signed a two year deal at the final hour after reports had him bolting to Lovie Smith’s staff in Tampa Bay, yesterday reports surfaced that Bobby April will also be back to coach the special teams, taking two coaches most assumed were gone and putting them right back into the fold on head coach Dennis Allen’s staff.
There is only one key figure left to be retained to fill the Raiders assistant coaching puzzle: Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
Tarver’s contract expires today and as of right now, no reports have been made involving the young defensive coordinator being offered a multi year extension to stay in Oakland.
That does not mean discussions are not likely in the works, Tarver is reportedly welcomed on the Tennessee Titans staff with their new head coach Ken Whisenhunt being hired yesterday and might just have more leverage than originally thought after the Raiders 4-12 season.
That 4-12 season came after Tarver had the Raiders defense playing great football to start the year, bullying Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers for a quality early season win at home. At late October, the Raiders defense was allowing just 22 points per game and 99 yards rushing, with 16 sacks as their improved pass coverage and complex blitzing schemes allowed them to thrive at the beginning of the season.
Then injuries to first round pick D.J. Hayden and safety Tyvon Branch, who was one of just two returning starters on the Raiders defense, led to regression during a rough patch to end the season that soured the hot start for the entire coaching staff.
Yet for Tarver, who had the defense playing so well the regression was much more noticeable and was one of the main factors in the Raiders season going south.
Over the final five games of 2013, Oakland gave up 31 points (Cowboys), 37 (Jets), 56 (Chiefs), 26 (Chargers) and 34 (Broncos) respectively, which turned solid numbers for the defense into numbers that put the banged up Raiders into the bottom half of the league.
The Raiders finished 21st in the NFL in total defense when all was said and done, giving up 363 yards per game. Oakland allowed the fourth-most points in the league as well, 28.3 per game. Both numbers might not reflect the way things might of went had key figures in the secondary in Hayden and Branch had been healthy as well as the Raiders having more talent instead of cap constraints, but are less than satisfactory nonetheless.
Dennis Allen is on the record as having the utmost respect for Tarver, but with his contract expiring it is very likely that Mark Davis wants to hold Tarver to a one year deal.
Another possibility is Tarver wanting out to join Whisenhunt in Tennessee, but that is just a rumor at this point, likely for leverage as Tarver clearly wants a two year deal as is the norm for all his assistants. Something that Mark Davis may not feel the inexperienced coordinator at the NFL level “deserves.”
There are a lot of ways this situation can go, but if Mark Davis wants to show that he has true faith in Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie’s visions to rebuild the Raiders when he hired McKenzie who then hired Allen as his coach the owner should extend the contracts of the assistants that they brought in.
With the majority of the assistants that were unsettled getting calmed down by Mark Davis, one final decision has to be made. Will the Raiders offer a multi year extension to Tarver, or will they tell their coordinator he needs to prove himself in 2014? If so will he stay? At the moment there are a lot of unanswered questions, how those questions are answered will go a long way in finding out the direction this team is headed defensively in 2014.