Raiders hire Jack Del Rio as coach
The Oakland Raiders, long known as a franchise with heavy turnover when it comes to head coaches, have made another move in that direction, with the franchise's third head coach in the last calendar year. Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will replace interim head coach Tony Sparano, who in turn replaced former Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in-season. Del Rio does bring a wealth of experience as a player and coach, but many will view the hire as a fairly uninspired one, by a team in need of a stronger direction.
It's not that Del Rio is a bad coach per se; he finished with a 68-71 record as the Jags' head coach from 2003 through '11 as that franchise went through a lot of changes, and he was part of a front office that made some very strange decisions, especially with first-round draft choices. Del Rio was part of the shakeup when former Broncos head coach John Fox came to an agreement with management to leave the team, and he had been focusing in on the Raiders job for a while.
Del Rio is not an exceptional head coach, nor is he someone known for defining his programs when it comes to personnel. A one-time Pro Bowl linebacker who played in the NFL from 1985 through '95, Del Rio is better known more as a good motivator than a brilliant overall in-game strategist. General manager Reggie McKenzie will most likely dominate when it comes to personnel in a general sense.
And that's the other question when it comes to this hire -- how far can Del Rio take this team, and how long will it take to make that happen? McKenzie had an outstanding draft in 2014, setting the team up with potential franchise players at quarterback (Derek Carr), linebacker (Khalil Mack), left guard (Gabe Jackson) and defensive tackle (Justin Ellis), but there's still a lot of work to do, especially at the receiver and secondary positions. The Raiders are probably a couple of years away from being competitive.
Del Rio grew up in Hayward, Calif., about 15 miles away from where the Raiders played when he was a kid, and his father would take him to games from time to time. However, he'll have to be cognizant of the fact that these are not those Raiders -- not by a long shot. This is a franchise that has had eight different coaches since Jon Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season (nine including Del Rio), and they haven't put up a winning season since 2002, when Bill Callahan took a lineup assembled for him to the Super Bowl.
If owner Mark Davis has the patience to wait it out with McKenzie and Del Rio, it's possible that this could be a successful pairing over time. But given the Raiders' recent history, most people will be very much in "wait and see" mode.