Heading into the 2017 season, the Oakland Raiders were the talk of the town.
They were going to be the team to finally unseat the New England Patriots as the AFC’s elite team. Behind the 125 million dollar man, Derek Carr, and a defense that saw the additions of Gareon Conley, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Obi Melifonwu, the Raiders were going to be the new big dogs in the NFL.
Fast forward and the Raiders are 4-5, and they’ll need a miraculous run to make the playoffs. Injuries have played a part, but ultimately the coaching has taken most of the blame. Some fans have started to call for the firing of head coach Jack Del Rio. Unfortunately for them, Jack Del Rio isn’t going anywhere.
Jack Del Rio Isn’t Going Anywhere
Jack Del Rio’s having a rough year. During the off-season, he had to deal with the news that the Raiders are relocating to Las Vegas. Then his first-round pick, Conley, was being investigated for sexual assault, and after a long contract negotiation revealed he had an injury that would eventually end his rookie season early.
After a 2-0 start, fans were very optimistic about Oakland’s chances. Then after a brutal loss to the Washington Redskins coincided with a political nightmare involving the President and the NFL, the coach had to juggle a ton of difficult questions. Not long after, his quarterback went down with a back injury in the midst of a four-game losing streak. And in the game that broke the losing streak? His star running back was ejected and suspended.
Now, that’s not to say that Del Rio’s critics are completely off base. After all, there’s no reason that a team as talented as the 2017 Oakland Raiders should have a losing record at this point. Del Rio isn’t completely responsible, as his coordinators, Todd Downing and Ken Norton Jr. have been terrible this year, but the problems start at the top. You can blame Norton for the lack of interceptions and Downing for the myriad of three-yard outs, but it’s the lack of discipline that falls on Del Rio.
Someone has to accept the blame for some of the more asinine calls this year. For instance, Del Rio is the one responsible for calling a fake punt on their own 33-yard line late in the third quarter, immediately after Carr got hurt. Then, the next week, Del Rio’s aggression was gone, and he failed to take the big risks against Baltimore. Without a doubt, Jack Del Rio is no Bill Belichick.
Money, Money, Money
Jack Del Rio signed a four-year contract extension during the last off-season, and it’s not a cheap one. When you consider how tight Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie have been with contracts, it’s unlikely that they’ll go out of their way to eat Del Rio’s. Money matters, and Jack Del Rio was a candidate for coach of the year last season. He’ll get at least one more off-season before the brass pulls the plug. Even if money wasn’t an issue, it’s unlikely he’d lose the job.
The Inconvenient Truth
Depending on how the season goes, Downing might get the ax, and Norton’s job is basically already John Pagano’s, but rest assured that Del Rio’s job is safe. Many, many fans have speculated, correctly, that Al Davis would’ve fired Del Rio by now. The father of Raider Nation would’ve scoffed at Del Rio’s apathetic excuses and started all over. Without getting into the pros and cons, Mark is not his father. For better or for worse, these are not his father’s Raiders.
Both Davis and McKenzie allowed Dennis Allen to coach the Oakland Raiders for 36 games, and he won eight of them. Del Rio has been Oakland’s head coach for 41 games, and he’s won 23 of them. Allen’s win percentage was .222, and Del Rio’s is .561 to this point. If they let Allen hang around, despite the fact he never showed any promise, they’re not going to pull the plug on Del Rio just yet. And maybe that’s a good thing.
The Convenient Truth
The last time the Raiders made the playoffs in 2002, their head coach was Bill Callahan. Obviously, he benefited greatly from Jon Gruden’s team, but this is important. Between Callahan and Del Rio, the Raiders had seven different head coaches. Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, and Tony Sparano all coached the Raiders during that span. None of them made it to the end of their third season.
Del Rio is halfway through his third season, and it’s highly unlikely McKenzie and Davis pull the plug before February, making him the longest-tenured Raiders coach since Gruden was traded after the Tuck Rule game. And believe it or not, that’s a good thing. When you look at the teams with the highest and lowest coaching turnover, you’ll notice the teams with the most consistency at the head coaching position have been the most successful.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins, Detriot Lions, Buffalo Bills, our Raiders, and Cleveland Browns have had the most turnover, and I don’t have to tell you how successful they’ve been. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots have had the most consistency at the head coaching position, and they’ve won 10 of the last 17 Super Bowls.
The Silver and Black Lining
Not every season is going to be a great one, and as they say, coaches are hired to be fired. Maybe Del Rio turns it around and returns to 2016 form. Maybe we’ve seen Del Rio’s full potential, and the team will outgrow him. All that’s for sure is that barring something terrible, Del Rio will coach the Oakland Raiders yet again in 2018.