Oakland Raiders: 2014 Positional Grades, Jack Del Rio Thoughts

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Jan 16, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Jack Del Rio (second from right) poses with jersey and Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie (left), wife Linda Del Rio (second from left) and owner Mark Davis (right) at press conference to announce his hiring as Raiders head coach at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Captain Jack

Throughout the last couple of days Raider’s fans have heard a bunch of Jack Del Rio talk. This was a coach I mentioned early on as a candidate the Raiders would be interested in although I would be dishonest to not mention it was not my idea. In fact, @NFLDraftBites actually mentioned it early on. After some Twitter debate with him, I really came around to the idea and started floating it out there to Raider fans. He really just makes too much sense with all of his connections to the franchise.

Throughout this process of hiring a head coach all we heard was how this was Jack’s dream job and for me as a life long Raiders fan, it always irked me to hear some new coach refer to the greatness of the Raiders while never meaning it in any way. This time, it feels right.

The three reasons why Del Rio is the best option are as follows: 1) He is a veteran head coach and knows how to handle people, 2) He is well respected by players because he was one, 3) He has deep coaching connections to better this coaching staff. People and myself included have tended to refer to veteran head coaches as “retreads”, but there needs to be a line drawn on what a “retread” is. To me a retread is a continuous failure. Jack Del Rio was not a failure in Jacksonville.

If you include his three interim head coaching games in Denver when John Fox had his heart procedure, Jack Del Rio actually has a .500 winning percentage with two playoff appearances. Since Del Rio left the team is 11-42. That only proves that winning is not easy in the NFL especially in Jacksonville.

What needs to be noted about Jack’s previous coaching stop is who was drafted while he was there. When Del Rio took over the Jags in 2003, the only players of note on that roster that were drafted were the center Meester, running back Fred Taylor, defensive tackle John Henderson, and defensive tackle Stroud. In 2003 Leftwich and Rashean Mathis were drafted. In 2004, Daryl Smith, Greg Jones (eventual full back), and Josh Scobee were the best in their draft class.

In 2005, the highlight was Khalif Barnes and Sensabaugh a career backup. 2006 was Marcedes Lewis and MJD, while 2007 produced five career backups. Quentin Groves was the highlight of 2008, while 2009 saw Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox, and Rashad Jennings, none of whom are with Jacksonville. Tyson Alualu was the first rounder in 2010, while Blaine Gabbert was the first rounder in 2011. Do not worry, the general manager made it up that year when he drafted Cecil Shorts.

So what is the point I am trying to make? Simply, the general managers that Jack had to work with in Jacksonville were largely inept and in the end did not provide him the continuous influx of young talent that is needed for sustained success and most importantly the quarterbacks he had to work with were Garrard, Leftwich, and Blaine Gabbert. All in all, he had a heck of a track record all things considered.

The second trait about Del Rio you will find is he is very well respected by players. The more Raider fans hear about Jack from former players, the more they will hear about how he commands a room and understands what players think. He is a terrific motivator and he understands the player mentality which is key when trying to get the most out of the players around the building. Del Rio is not a micro manager.

People look at his job as defensive coordinator in Denver and critique it to death, but he is not a coordinator at heart. He has a mentality for being a head coach. He will give his coordinators the freedom to design the gameplans and because of that it will provide a healthy balance for the team. What the Raiders have lacked for a long time is a great motivator, and if you though Hue Jackson could command a room and drum up respect from players, Jack Del Rio will blow him away.

This all leads into the final benefit you get with Jack Del Rio. He is not only respected by players, but his peers as well. He comes from a large and dynamic coaching tree and he can grab great coordinators. Jack’s old defensive coordinator was ex-Falcons head coach Mike Smith and I am absolutely certain we will see those two reunited. Along with Smith, I think Del Rio will pursue many of his old position coaches such as Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Ravens linebacker coach Ted Monachino. Del Rio’s old offensive coordinator is Dirk Koetter but he was recently poached by the Buccaneers, and reportedly the Raiders already reached out to Mike Tice but they were rebuffed by the Falcons. The long time quarterback coach for Del Rio was Mike Shula who is now the offensive coordinator in Carolina, but the big fish is Marc Trestman.

There is no crossover from Trestman and Del Rio, but this is where respect and coaching style comes into play. Because Jack is respected and he allows his coaches to coach this may be a perfect spot for Trestman.

As we all know, Trestman was the offensive coordinator for the Raiders under Gruden and he helped turn Gannon into a league MVP. He still runs a dynamic version of the west coast offense that perfectly fits the talents of Derek Carr. He will run some combination of zone blocking and isolation power which fits this group well. With a blend of the occasional traditional power pull run with Jackson coming around we could see a return to a very successful offense. Along with Trestman would come another ex-Raider coach Aaron Kromer who is a very good offensive line coach. The Raiders should keep their current defensive back coaches.

Assuming the Raiders add Mike Smith as defensive coordinator what should Raider’s fans expect from the scheme? Firstly, it will be a 4-3 defense that is based upon two big space eating defensive tackles. This is a little different from some 4-3 defenses that have one penetrating tackle and one nose tackle. It will play more like the 2000 Ravens with Siragusa and Sam Adams inside. The idea is to defeat the run early and force the offense into a situation that can be dictated by the defense. There will be interesting blitzes including cross dog linebacker blitzes, corner and safety blitzes, and other fun stuff for defensive geeks. This fits the combo of Jelly Ellis and McGee for the Raiders defensive line and allows the team to have continuity with the defensive scheme.

Next: Del Rio and McKenzie's Potential Plan