Jack Del Rio Is Building a Seasoned Staff in Oakland


Jan 16, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Jack Del Rio poses with helmet at press conference to announce his hiring as Oakland Raiders head coach at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since Jack Del Rio has been hired as head coach, information junkies like some of us here at JBB and many of our readers and twitter followers have been eagerly following the process of staff-building, projecting potential hires, and commenting on the ones he has made. Some have been meet with universal agreement, some have been met with ire. Some hires are still out there, waiting to be made, leading to constant speculation as we wait to hear who’s up. Some hires have managed to take us by surprise.

So far Jack Del Rio has made six hires since being named head coach of the Raiders. He has added two defensive assistants, a Special Teams Coordinator, a QB’s coach, and O-line coach, and of course an Offensive Coordinator. While some of the names are not necessarily the names that fans and the media projected or even wanted in those roles, Del Rio so far has shown exactly WHY he was chosen to be the team’s next leader over a younger coordinator type: his experienced connections in the coaching world.

As of the time this article is being written, Jack Del Rio and his six named assistants to this point bring an astounding 106 combined seasons of NFL coaching experience to the Raiders staff. One hundred and six. This includes Mike Tice’s four years of experience as a head coach in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.

Two members of the staff – ST Coordinator Brad Seely and apparent DL coach Sal Sunseri also have a combined 33 years of experience in the college ranks – eleven years for Seely, and 22 for Sunseri. The two least experienced coaches on the Raider roster – Todd Downing and Marcus Robertson – have seven years apiece as NFL assistant coaches, and Robertson brings more than a decade of experience as an NFL player as well.

Speaking of playing experience, the Raider staff as it is currently constructed includes four former NFL players: Jack Del Rio himself, Bill Musgrave, Mike Tice, and Marcus Robertson. Jack Del Rio is the most decorated former player of the three: he had an eleven year career as an NFL linebacker with four different teams. In 1985 he was named to the NFL’s all-rookie team and was named the New Orleans Saints Rookie of the Year.

In 1994, with the Minnesota Vikings, Del Rio had the best year of his career, named All-Pro for the first and only time in his career and playing in his first and last Pro Bowl. In eleven NFL seasons, Del Rio started 112 games and recorded 941 tackles, 13 sacks, 13 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. He also scored three career touchdowns.

Mike Tice had the longest NFL career of the bunch, recording 14 seasons with three teams, mostly the Seattle Seahawks.  He and Del Rio were also teammates for three years with the Vikings. Tice, generally a blocking tight end during his career, caught 107 passes for 894 yards and 11 TD’s in his career, logging 110 regular-season starts. He also made six playoff starts, with two career receptions in postseason play.

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Defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson – a favorite of future Hall of Fame safety Charles Woodson – was recently confirmed as one of the few coaches from the previous regime who will keep his job under Del Rio, with an apparent promotion from assistant DB’s coach to DB’s coach. Robertson had a highly decorated career as an NFL player after being drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1991.

Robertson was a two-time NFL All-Pro for the Oilers in 1993 and 1997, and logged 144 starts in 12 NFL seasons – 10 with the Oilers/Titans, two with the Seahawks. Robertson played his entire career as a free safety, and logged 638 tackles, 24 career interceptions and nine career forced fumbles, scoring three touchdowns. Robertson also made five career postseason starts.

Of the four coaches with NFL playing experience, OC Bill Musgrave had the shortest career. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, he ended up on the San Francisco 49ers roster that year, as the 49ers needed an additional quarterback with Joe Montana out with an injury. Musgrave would spend four years with the 49ers, generally as the 3rd-string quarterback behind Steve Young and either Steve Bono or Elvis Grbac, but he also shared time on the practice field with Joe Montana in 1992.

After the 1994 season, with the 49ers leading big over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, Musgrave was inserted into the game and allowed to throw a single pass, which he completed. Musgrave spent 1995 and 1996 in Denver backing up John Elway, seeing significant action in six games and making his one and only NFL start (a 1996 late-season loss to the Packers).

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He ended his playing career after five years, having attempted 69 career regular-season passes, completing 62.3% of them for 402 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Musgrave would begin his coaching career the following year in Oakland. While Musgrave was not a highly accomplished NFL quarterback, he did spend five years in the NFL on a practice field with three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Young, Montana and Elway, playing four years for Mike Shanahan and a year for Mike Holmgren.

Del Rio is still looking to fill the role of defensive coordinator. He may turn to one of his former Defensive Coordinators from his time in Jacksonville: either former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith or former Bears DC Mel Tucker; or he may look for other former assistants, like Mike Trgovac of the Packers, who was his DL coach in Carolina and succeeded him there as Defensive Coordinator (hiring Sal Sunseri, who was part of that 2002 Carolina Panthers staff might support this).

But even if every other hire Del Rio makes is a young, inexperienced coach or guy who is looking to make his mark in the pros after a successful college career, Del Rio has already assembled a staff of seasoned, experienced coaches who have spent a long time in and around the game and worked with – or even played alongside – some of the all-time greats.