Going 12-4 and leading the Oakland Raiders to the AFC Playoffs wasn’t enough for Jack Del Rio to win NFL Coach of the Year. What will it take this year?
The Oakland Raiders clearly have the right man in charge of their football team in head coach Jack Del Rio. He’s a no-nonsense guy and a coach that wants to empower his players to make a difference. His faith in his players is unwavering and he’s a big reason that Oakland can orchestrate a deep playoff run in the AFC this January.
Despite going 12-4 and reaching the AFC Playoffs, it was not enough for Del Rio to win NFL Coach of the Year. The 2016 award went to Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, whose team went 13-3 and lost in their first NFC playoff game as the No. 1 seed.
It’s no surprise that Del Rio will be in the mix to contend for NFL Coach of the Year again in 2017. What will it take for him to receive that high honor and which coaches will emerge as his biggest competition for it this fall?
First, Del Rio needs to get better play out of his defense. That largely falls on him, as he is a defensive-minded coach and a former NFL linebacker. A turnaround on that side of the ball coupled with the already strong offense in Oakland could have the 2017 Raiders as a top-four team in football.
Oakland doesn’t necessarily have to reach the 2017 AFC Championship Game for Del Rio to win Coach of the Year, but it wouldn’t hurt. Winning the AFC West and finishing somewhere in that 10 to 13-win range would likely do it, especially if the defensive woes dissolve over the course of the season.
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In the AFC, Del Rio’s three biggest competitors are Bill Belichick, Mike Mularkey and maybe Hue Jackson. Belichick is in a class by himself as a head coach, but NFL fans outside of New England already have Patriots fatigue.
Mularkey’s Tennessee Titans are an on-the-rise team in the AFC South. However, he’s not a dynamic personality to captivate voters. He’d need his Titans to go 12-4 to win Coach of the Year. Then there’s Jackson, whose Cleveland Browns may not be atrocious this year. If somehow Cleveland goes 7-9, he’d have to be in the mix for it, right?
In the NFC, it’s a little murkier. Dan Quinn would have to get the No. 1 seed with the Atlanta Falcons to win it. Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan are still at least a year away with their NFC West teams to be in serious consideration.
Are we sure Doug Pederson is a good coach with the Philadelphia Eagles? Maybe a division winner in Tampa Bay or New Orleans is enough to entice voters to cast their ballots for Dirk Koetter or Sean Payton, respectively?
In short, Del Rio has the team, the expectations, the personality and the voters’ attention to bring NFL Coach of the Year honors to the Bay Area. Of course, his team has to execute at a high level, but he’s certainly a preseason finalist. Belichick fatigue, Mularkey blandness and Browns ineptitude only serve Del Rio in the long run this year.