Jack Del Rio just finished his second season as the head-coach of the Oakland Raiders. He finished with a 12-4 record and he was able to do so in his second season at helm. Quite a contrast from his time as the head-coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he made it to the playoffs just two times in nine years.
Coaching alone can only take you so far and there are many differences between Del Rio’s tenures in Oakland and Jacksonville. Most of those differences such as talent and the owner’s support or lack of thereof were out of his control, so there was not much he could do. Talents does matter and there are some reasons why he stopped coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Del Rio didn’t have an optimal quarterback situation in his last years as the coach of the Jaguars. Between Blaine Bortles and Luke McCown, the offense was a mess, they accounted for 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Likewise, their yard-per-attempt (YPA) were 5.4 and 5.3 respectively. Nowadays, Derek Carr is the quarterback of the Raiders, a quarterback that has a touchdown-interception ratio of 2.61-1 and a YPA of 7.0 in the last two years. Even better, Carr is still improving as he enters his fourth year in the league. Most of the times, an NFL will only go as far as its quarterback takes it (with the 2015 Denver Broncos being one of the few exceptions), just ask the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien or the Cincinnati Bengals with Andy Dalton as their quarterback.
The last year the Jaguars made it to the playoffs, Ernest Wilford was their leading receiver, accounting for 45 catches and the second receiving option, Dennis Northcutt caught 44 passes. Similarly, they had a catch percentage of 60.8 and 60.3 respectively. They were not passing threats but they were solid if anything. On the other hand and in Del Rio last year in Jacksonville, Mike Thomas caught 44 passes for 415 yards with a YPC of 9.4, and Mercedes Lewis caught 39 catches for 460 yards and a YPC of 11.8. Backup numbers for sure, not what you expect from your top two receiving options.
Khalif Barnes, Vince Manuwai, Brad Mester, Uche Nwareri and Toni Pashos were the offensive linemen the last time the Jaguars made it to the playoffs. a group that if not spectacular, at least was adequate enough to protect a quarterback and get a running game going. By 2011, only an aging Brad Mester and Uche Nwareri were left and the other positions in the offensive line were filled with backups such as Guy Whimper and Jason Spitz. Back-to-back round high draft picks Eugene Monroe and Eric Britton, didn’t account for much as the former was average and later spent the season in IR.
Having a franchise running back is not an indicator of success as Maurice Jones-Drew led the league with 1,606 yards in 2011. The Jaguars finished 5-11 that year. A premier running attack does not make up for a lousy passing game. On the other hand, Latavius Murray led the Raiders last year with 788 yards but was part of a “committee” approach that ranked sixth overall in rushing yards.
Jack Del Rio now has a plethora of talent to work with; talent that was drafted and provided by Reggie McKenzie, so Del Rio is not the only one responsible for the Raiders success nowadays. He has a patient owner in Mark Davis and an excellent talent scout in McKenzie. Alas, that patience and talent can’t go very far without guidance and nurturing, something Del Rio has excelled at in his first two years in Oakland and didn’t have in Jacksonville.