Raiders introduce Jack Del Rio as new coach
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Jack Del Rio lived Oakland Raiders history as a kid growing up in the East Bay, going to games at the Coliseum and cheering on those great teams coached by John Madden in the 1970s.
Del Rio is now coaching his favorite childhood team, tasked with ending 12 years of dismal performances that have left what once was the NFL's most successful team at the bottom of the league.
As heartwarming a story as the local hero coming home may be, that's not the sole reason why Del Rio took the job or the Raiders picked Del Rio.
''Yes it's coming home, yes I'm from this area and yes I'm a lifelong Raider,'' Del Rio said Friday at his introductory news conference. ''I've been a Raider fan all my life. My dad took me and I sat in the stands way back when. And so I followed them in my heart the entire time. That's not the main reason I came back.''
Del Rio said he was attracted to the Raiders because of the organization that owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie have put together and the fact that there are key pieces to build the roster around, most notably quarterback Derek Carr.
There is plenty of building to be done. Del Rio becomes Oakland's ninth head coach since the start of the 2003 season. The Raiders have the NFL's worst record in that span, having failed to produce a single winning season or playoff berth.
''I think there's certainly no other way to trend from where we're sitting right now,'' Del Rio said. ''We have to go up.''
This is the second full-time coach hired since Mark Davis and McKenzie took over the organization following the death of longtime owner Al Davis in October 2011.
Mark Davis hired McKenzie as his GM after that season and let McKenzie pick his first coach in Dennis Allen. That choice did not work out as the Raiders went just 8-28 under Allen before he was fired four games into the 2014 season.
Mark Davis was much more involved this time around and interviewed Del Rio by himself nearly two weeks ago and came away immediately impressed despite his previous inclination to hire an offensive-minded coach. Del Rio is a former linebacker and longtime defensive assistant but he also spent nine seasons as head coach in Jacksonville.
''When we met and he dissected the Raiders roster and was able to tell me about each offensive player and tell me how they ranked and how they did was pretty amazing to me, that he had just spent a whole season up in Denver but knew our offensive roster as well as anybody,'' Davis said. ''That showed me he's ready to do this.''
Del Rio then came in for a second interview this week with Davis, McKenzie, Hall of Fame coach John Madden and other team officials and won over the rest of the organization.
Before talking to Del Rio, McKenzie had not found a candidate he felt would be better than interim coach Tony Sparano. That changed once he talked to Del Rio.
''It was obvious, OK, this is going to be our guy,'' McKenzie said. ''That's the way it went. I thought all of these guys, I thought Tony, did his interview for 12 weeks. It kind of showed. So everybody I talked to had to measure up. And I finally got a chance to interview Jack.''
Del Rio has been defensive coordinator in Denver for the past three seasons, helping the Broncos win three straight AFC West titles.
Denver ranked third in total defense and tied for 16th in scoring defense this past season. The Broncos were third in total defense and 10th in scoring defense in Del Rio's three years with the team.
Before that, he was head coach in Jacksonville for nine seasons. Del Rio had a 68-71 regular-season record with the Jaguars and made the playoffs in 2005 and 2007, winning one playoff game in his second postseason trip. He was fired with five games remaining in the 2011 season.
''You have an idea as a young coach of what you think it would be and then the reality of being a head coach sets in,'' Del Rio said. ''I think there's been tremendous growth. It also was very beneficial that after being a head coach to get the past three years to go back and be a coordinator in a successful group because I was able to see things in a different perspective.''
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