Possible DC Candidates With NFL Experience for the Oakland Raiders

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Nov 16, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker during the third quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

2. Mel Tucker

Mel Tucker is yet another former Del Rio assistant, having served as Del Rio’s defensive coordinator during his final three years in Jacksonville. It was Tucker who took over as the interim head coach in Jacksonville when Del Rio was fired. Tucker has spent the past two years as the defensive coordinator in Chicago, and has held that position for three different teams over the past seven seasons.

To be blunt, Tucker is – on the surface – the type of hire that would make fans and the media scratch their heads and say “same old Raiders.” Tucker has, frankly, failed everywhere he has been as a defensive coordinator, and his entire NFL coaching experience only goes back to 2005. That said, he does fit the profile of a Del Rio hire and he is available, having been fired from the Bears staff along with Marc Trestman.

Tucker, a University of Wisconsin alumnus, began coaching as a Grad Assistant at his alma mater in 1997, spending eight years in the college ranks coaching defensive backs. He spent 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, where he coached current NFL linebacker AJ Hawk. In 2005, he joined Romeo Crennel’s Cleveland Browns staff, working with defensive backs under Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham.

Working with a relatively untalented group of DB’s, Tucker helped the group combine for 12 interceptions on the year and the defense finished 4th in the league in passing yards allowed. Over the next two seasons with Tucker as DB’s coach, Cleveland’s defensive backs combined for a total of 30 picks, but in 2007 the team finished 25th in pass defense. Grantham was fired, and Tucker was hired to replace him.

Tucker’s defense was not very good in 2008. The team ranked 26th in total defense, giving up 5.7 yards per play on the season. The aggressive unit did manage 31 takeaways, including 23 interceptions on the year, but the result of the ball-hawking style was 4.5 yards per carry allowed in the run game and 7.1 yards per attempt allowed in the pass game. The aggression did not apply to pressuring the quarterback, either, as the Browns compiled a mere 17 sacks in 2008.

While the unit finished in the top half of the league in pass defense and passing touchdowns allowed, it finished 28th in run defense. Romeo Crennel was out after the 2008 season, and Tucker was out of a job until Jack Del Rio came calling.

Del Rio hired the young coordinator in Jacksonville to replace the departed Mike Smith in 2009. Jacksonville’s defense had some talented players, but had a giant hole in its center where John Henderson and Marcus Stroud used to be. The young unit didn’t respond very well to Tucker, and finished the year 23rd in total defense and 24th in scoring defense and gave up 5.7 yards per play.

Just like in Cleveland, Tucker’s defense couldn’t get after the passer and compiled an astonishing 13 sacks in 2009, but unlike Cleveland, his defense wasn’t particularly good at forcing turnovers, finishing 19th in the league in takeaways.  Opposing QB’s completed over 67% of their passes against the 2009 Jaguars defense, for nearly 3,800 yards (26th in the league), 28 TD’s and 15 picks. But at least opposing running backs only managed 4.1 yards per carry instead of 4.5. Frankly, that the team finished 7-9 that year with that defense and David Garrard at quarterback is a testament to Del Rio’s ability as a head coach.

In 2010 the team improved in sacks – from 13 to 26 – but regressed in nearly every other defensive category. The team finished 27th in scoring defense, 28th in total defense, 30th in takeaways, 28th in pass defense and 22nd in run defense. Tucker’s defense allowed an unbelievable 6.3 yards per play, including 7.5 yards per attempt in the passing game and 4.7 yards per carry in the run game. They allowed opposing passers to complete 65% of their passes for over 4,000 yards and 28 TD’s while only logging 13 interceptions.  Opponents scored 30 or more points six times against Jacksonville in 2010.

Finally, in 2011, the defense improved. The arrival of free agent acquisitions Paul Posluszny, Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery helped Tucker’s defense finish an impressive sixth in the league in total defense that season. The Jags managed 31 quarterback sacks – an all-time high for a Mel Tucker defense – and the team registered 28 takeaways while holding opponents to a more respectable 5.1 yards per play: 6.3 yards per pass attempt and only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt.

Late in the 2011 season – as the Jaguars sat at 3-8 with a historically inept offense – Jack Del Rio was fired and Tucker was named interim head coach. Many believed Jack Del Rio had gotten more personally involved in the running of the defense, leading to the improvement on the year, and the stats somewhat bear that out: in the 11 games where Del Rio was present, the defense allowed roughly 293 yards per game, while in Tucker’s five games as the interim man the defense allowed 358 yards per game.

The Jaguars won two of five games in Tucker’s interim run, and Tucker was retained in Jacksonville for another year as DC and Assistant Head Coach for Mike Mularkey. Tucker’s 2012 defense ranked 30th in the league and recorded only 20 sacks, and the team went 2-14 and the entire coaching staff got fired.

Tucker’s incredible run as an NFL defensive coordinator of course made him the perfect hire for noted offensive genius Marc Trestman in his first NFL head coaching job after a successful stint in the CFL. Tucker was named defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, in his first DC job with a purely offensive-minded head coach.  In Chicago in the past two seasons, Mel Tucker has the distinct honor of being the defensive coordinator for the worst two defensive teams in Bears history. And the Bears have a long history.

In 2012 the Bears had finished 5th in the league in total defense. In 2013 and 2014 they finished 30th. While a combination of injuries to key players and just plain old age played a factor, the Bears were really historically bad.  n 2013 they gave up 5.3 yards per carry for an entire season.

Everywhere Tucker has been there has been some excuse for poor performances: lack of talent, injuries, really bad offenses that put too much on his defensive units, etc. And those have all played a role. But after seven years of being an NFL defensive coordinator, a clear pattern has emerged: Mel Tucker’s defenses are pretty lousy.

His single best year as a defensive coordinator came in a year when his head coach is thought to have essentially wrested control of the defense from him. Of course, that head coach is Jack Del Rio, so maybe he can get it together with the 2015 Raiders.

With many good options around the league getting snatched up left and right, Tucker is one of the few remaining defensive coaches who fits the Del Rio profile. Lets hope Del Rio doesn’t make this same mistake twice.

Next: Candidate #3: Joe Woods