Possible DC Candidates With NFL Experience for the Oakland Raiders

2 of 7

Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac during the game against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mike Trgovac

Mike Trgovac, like Del Rio’s newest hire Sal Sunseri, was on Del Rio’s defensive staff in Carolina in 2002. A Michigan alum, Trgovac played for the legendary Bo Shembechler, and then immediately went to work for him as a graduate assistant in 1984.  Trgovac spent a decade in the college ranks as a defensive line coach, with stops at Ball State, Navy, Colorado State and Notre Dame.

In 1995, he was hired by Ray Rhodes to be the defensive line coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles boasted a talented defensive line unit, and with Trgovac on the staff, defensive end William Fuller enjoyed two Pro Bowl seasons and 26 sacks in two years. Trgovac spent four years with the Eagles, and the Eagles registered 40 or more sacks in each of those four years, for a total of 171 in that span. The Eagles also allowed slightly over 4.1 yards per carry against the run in that time.

In 1999, Rhodes was fired in Philly and hired in Green Bay, and Trgovac followed him and defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas there. Reggie McKenzie, current Raider GM, was Director of Pro Personnel for the Packers at the time. The Packers, who had just lost Hall of Famer Reggie White, struggled to generate a pass rush, managing 29 quarterback sacks on the year, but they held opposing running backs to a 3.8 yard rushing average. Rhodes was out after a single year, and Trgovac followed him again, this time to Washington, where Rhodes was hired on as Defensive Coordinator on Norv Turner’s staff.

Trgovac began working with a defensive line unit that included future Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, former 49ers DT Dana Stubblefield, former first overall pick Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson, and a veteran rush end named Marco Coleman. Trgovic improved the front immediately: the 2000 Washington d-line accounted for 33 of the team’s 45 quarterback sacks that year and held opposing rushers to 4.2 yards per carry a year after surrendering 4.5 yards per carry.

Coleman had a career-high 12 sacks and made his first and only career Pro Bowl, and Bruce Smith – at 37 years old – had his last 10-sack season. Trgovac stayed two years in Washington, and in his second year there – under new Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer and DC Kurt Schottenheimer – the team only surrendered 3.9 yards per carry to opposing rushers but his D-line also only managed a combined 23.5 sacks on the year as age began to set in for Smith and Coleman.

In 2002, Trgovac got his first new NFL job that didn’t involve Ray Rhodes, hired on by John Fox to work with Jack Del Rio as the Defensive Line Coach of the Carolina Panthers. He was assigned to work with a rookie defensive end named Julius Peppers, along with second-year tackle Kris Jenkins and veterans Mike Rucker and Brenston Buckner.

The 2002 Panthers d-line improved dramatically over the 2001 unit, logging 39 of the team’s 52 sacks (the team as a whole had managed 29 sacks the year prior) and holding opposing rushers to just 3.7 yards per carry – the best in the league that year. Big Kris Jenkins had his first of two consecutive First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl seasons in his first year with Trgovac, while Mike Rucker managed his first 10-sack year and rookie Julius Peppers led the team with 12 sacks. Trgovac’s work with the defensive line was good enough to get him promoted, and he took over as Defensive Coordinator in Carolina after Jack Del Rio left to become the head man in Jacksonville.

Trgovac was the defensive coordinator in Carolina from 2003 through 2008 under John Fox, a run that saw Carolina reach the Super Bowl in his first year on the job. Carolina, in the six years Trgovac was the defensive coordinator, finished in the top half of the league in scoring defense every year, and averaged less than 20 points a game allowed over his entire tenure.

In that time, the defense finished ranked in the top ten in yards allowed three times. His defenses managed nearly a two-takeaway per game average in his tenure, and twice finished the season with more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed. Opposing quarterbacks averaged a 59.2% completion percentage and just over 200 yards a game against Trgovac’s defenses, which included having to face Drew Brees six times between 2006 and 2008 and facing Jon Gruden’s offenses twelve times over the six-year span.

Trgovac’s defenses, true to his D-line heritage, were nearly always excellent pass-rushing units, averaging 2.3 sacks per game over his entire tenure, and recording 34 or more sacks in a season in five of his six years. Also true to his d-line heritage, his defenses played strong against the run, even during years where monster DT Kris Jenkins missed significant time. Over the course of six years, Trgovac’s defenses surrendered an average of 3.9 yards per carry, and finished in the top 12 in that category five times in a row.

Trgovac’s players thrived under his watch. Kris Jenkins, in six years playing for Trgovac, was a two-time First Team All-Pro, one-time Second Team All-Pro, and three-time Pro Bowl selection and managed 18.5 of his 24 career sacks. Julius Peppers was on the roster every year Trgovac was on the Panthers’ coaching staff and was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2002, went to the Pro Bowl four times while Trgovac was his DC, and was named All-Pro three times. He recorded 70.5 of his 125.5 career quarterback sacks while Trgovac was either his position coach or his DC.

Defensive end Mike Rucker and linebackers Dan Morgan and Mark Fields had their sold Pro Bowl seasons on Trgovac’s defense. In 2008, in Trgovac’s defense, second-year linebacker Jon Beason had his first Pro Bowl season and was also named First-Team All-Pro after recording 110 tackles.

Trgovac left Carolina unexpectedly after the 2009 season, along with many of his defensive assistants and ended up working for Dom Capers in Green Bay, where Reggie McKenzie was Director of Football Operations. In Capers and Trgovac’s first season in Green Bay, the rushing defense improved from 26th in the league to first, and held opponents to 3.6 yards per carry. Capers’ 3-4 system relies on linebackers like Clay Matthews to generate the pass rush and get sacks, but that didn’t stop Trgovac from getting his big boys involved: in 2010, BJ Raji and Cullen Jenkins combined for 13.5 sacks.

In 2013, Datone Jones and Mike Daniels combined for 10. This past season, veteran Julius Peppers re-joined his former coach on the Packers, and managed seven sacks as well as two interceptions returned for touchdowns. While the Packers’ run defense has not been as solid in the past five years as it was in 2009, much of that has to do with Capers’ schemes and use of linebackers and safeties. Trgovac’s defensive line units are capable year-in and year-out, and BJ Raji was able to make a Pro Bowl in 2011 thanks in large part to Trgovac’s coaching.

Trgovac has all the necessary connections for the Raider coaching staff: he’s a former Del Rio assistant, and a former Reggie McKenzie employee. He’s got a ton of experience, and has helped multiple player turn in the best performances in their careers. He also has worked with existing DL coach Sal Sunseri in the past, which might be a clue that Del Rio is already considering luring Trgovac away from the Packers’ staff.

Trgovac, as a defensive coordinator, is a 4-3 guy, having cut his teeth on Ray Rhodes’ system during the late 90’s. He ran the 4-3 about as well as it’s been run during his time in Carolina, as well. But he also has some 3-4 experience, having worked in a 3-4 system under Dom Capers in Green Bay these past six seasons. This should allow him to do what Jack Del Rio seems to want to do, and what the Raiders’ personnel and current league-wide trends suggest and run a hybrid defense that incorporates both a 3-4 and 4-3 front or uses 3-4 personnel in a 4-3 type alignment.

Coaches who manage to put in more than five year stints on teams, and who get multiple jobs with the same head coach, usually do so because they are respected and they are good at their job. Trgovac’s history of relatively long tenures indicates that he could be in place in Oakland for years to come if hired by Del Rio as his defensive coordinator.

Next: Candidate #2: Mel Tucker