Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has not had the most prolific couple of days in his life this week.
This past Monday there was a blow up during Del Rio’s weekly post-game interview on the Damon Bruce Show, 95.7 FM The Game. Fielding questions about the political regrets of his wife before he started his press conference.
Tuesday, marked the day he officially parted ways with defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. And then, almost immediately, players across the league appeared to be voicing the displeasure over the move, especially Raiders’ linebacker Bruce Irvin.
Reaching the playoffs in 14 years and nearly tying the franchise win mark with a 12-4 record in the 2016 season warranted a contract extension for Del Rio in the eyes of owner Mark Davis, a move which may wind up costing a substantial amount of money, or a largely diminished product to deliver to Las Vegas. As coach Del Rio will tell you, “you get what you earn in this league.”
The truth is the Raiders haven’t earned very much and the success of last year is getting further and further in the rear-view mirror. Derek Carr appears to be stifled by an offense which was sold to us as giving him free rein. Tony Romo alluded to the offensive design seemingly schematically neutering Carr.
Not… a… fan… of… Raiders… offense!!!!! (But love @derekcarrqb & feel for him)
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) November 21, 2017
Big-armed quarterbacks must showcase the goods in order to be playing at peak performance. Yet, the offensive design and play calls have continued to dial-up curl/flat concepts and other route concepts that appear either uncalled or unexecuted. To his credit, Carr is even-keeled and a good and dutiful soldier. An admirable and respectable quality, for without structure there is anarchy.
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) November 22, 2017
The oftentimes opinionated Rich Gannon hopped on The Greg Pap Show on 95.7 The Game FM, the flagship station of the Oakland Raiders. Gannon was known for his iconic and legendary rages on the sidelines with former beloved head coach Jon Gruden. Gannon has been far from complimentary of the organization; however, in this he is right. It is becoming apparent that the bandwagon has collapsed under the colossal weight of expectations and the wheels are falling off. The Raiders are in need of direction and no one is stepping up.
Steve Smith Sr. or rather, Agent 89, working diligently behind the scenes brought a message to light via his Twitter account yesterday.
Ken Norton Jr. " the DC " But from what I've gather DelRio was really game planning and calling all the shots on defense anyway 🤔🤔🤔. Don't let this dudes fool you. Ken didn't draft or pay the wrong guys in free agency.#Scapegoat !!!! Agent89🕵🏼 out @nflnetwork https://t.co/VRVYaKlNaX
— Steve Smith Sr (@89SteveSmith) November 22, 2017
Whether or not there are teeth to these latest allegations, only time will tell and by time, I mean Sunday’s contest against the Denver Broncos. As if trying to win a division game after having gotten waxed coming out of the bye by the New England Patriots wasn’t bad enough, it appears that the departure of Ken Norton Jr. has upset many of the players and is serving to drive a wedge further and further between Del Rio and his team.
Bruce Irvin took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. Bobby Wagner who played under Norton in Seattle has come to the defense of his former coach and called out Del Rio. Khalil Mack may have elected not to deliver an official comment to the press about his feelings on the firing, but what he did clearly illustrate his point.
Raiders LB Bruce Irvin and DE Khalil Mack missed practice today for non-injury reasons, according to team injury report. They were seen walking off practice field, one day after Ken Norton Jr. firing.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 23, 2017
Coach Del Rio has also been on the record recently stating “nobody should feel comfortable” because it’s obvious pressure is mounting and he feels the fire getting hotter under his seat.
Last season the Raiders were fortunate in the contributions they got from younger players last season. Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time is proving to be a fool’s errand. The over-reliance on young players to come in and play starting roles and contribute significant snaps has backfired. Injuries will rob Gareon Conley of all but two games of his rookie year.
Obi Melifonwu returned from the IR to get his feet wet against the Miami Dolphins. After showing promise in limited action inside the box, Melifonwu was rewarded with a start at cornerback in his first pro start against Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Eddie Vanderdoes was hailed as a potential answer to the lack of push in the middle after a good initial showing against the Tennessee Titans in the season opener. Since then it seems as though he is nearly invisible on the field. Rather than pile on him for being a bust and not very good it’s worth noting that the Raiders ask their defensive lineman to two-gap. So rather than trying to penetrate they are being asked to occupy blockers and opposing teams have been more than content to oblige. Resulting in being last in the league in sacks and opposing teams having all day to throw.
“Mojo,” “focus,” “little things,” and “play faster” are all part of the clichés echoed ad nauseam in place of answers as to why this team continues to underperform. Hindsight will always be 20/20 and the reality has sunk in, opting for changing the offensive coordinator when it was rolling will be the ultimate failing of the head coach. This move has set the franchise back at minimum two years as 2017 appears to be headed for a lost year and the earliest this offense can get back on track will be next season.
Del Rio doesn’t regret firing Bill Musgrave, yet, his offense went from No. 6 to No. 21 under his handpicked successor. Then waiting until Week 12, two weeks after his bye to get rid of Norton, Tom Brady and the Patriots ripped his defense a new one. Coaches coach and players play, leaders lead and pretenders pretend. This team has fallen from Super Bowl contender to a top-ten draft position at the moment.
Carr is no longer frustrated in a good way and falling on the sword taking ownership of his vaunted receiving corps issue with catching the football. Mack and Irvin were allowed a day off of practice with an undisclosed injury. Translation? They were not happy in the least and needed a day to get their heads right and be able to regain their professionalism.
— Peter Joe (@RaiderPosts) November 23, 2017
Things have been shaken. The 2017 season is teetering dangerously between salvageable and a complete disaster in which the house needs to be cleaned. Too much of the talent on this team is being placed in situations they clearly don’t feel comfortable in. Players aren’t believing in the direction and trusting the process as much as they used to. The elephant in the room is this. The Raiders are in the first of potentially three lame-duck years in Oakland and already the product on the field is nearly unrecognizable.
Del Rio has gone from earning his money to people calling for him to be shown the door. While many will cite the contract extension as protection for his job, Del Rio has this week against his former team, the Denver Broncos, to prove that he hasn’t lost his football team.
Should the Raiders lose this game and should they lose handily, nearly all will be lost and the coach must go down with the ship.