15 January 2015

Jack Del Rio is the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders

Another team bites the dust in the NFL coaching carousel and it perhaps the most dysfunctional of them all: the Oakland Raiders. Their new head guy is Jack Del Rio, as first reported by the dynamo that is Adam Schefter. Del Rio, who is an Alameda County native, comes to the Raiders from the Broncos where he has served as defensive coordinator since 2012 after serving over eight years as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Del Rio is the ninth head coach in Oakland since Jon Gruden was dealt to the Buccaneers in 2002 but can he be the guy to lead the Silver and Black back to the playoffs for the first time since then?

Del Rio is actually the second straight Broncos defensive coordinator to take over the reins in Oakland as Dennis Allen was both his predecessor in Denver and now in Oakland. But unlike Allen, who I think can become a good head coach but ultimately proved himself to be too raw, Del Rio has some head coaching experience and while he was only 68-71, he did go 12-4 in 2005 with a quarterback combo of Byron Leftwich and David Garrard and then 11-5 in 2007 with Garrard. Plus one look at what has happened with the Jaguars since they axed him during the 2011 season (11-32 to be exact).

Del Rio should give the Raiders the kind of steady hand they have lacked for, well, many seasons and his defensive expertise will certainly help a defense that has underperformed for the better part of a decade since the Super Bowl season. Del Rio made his bones by building a strong Carolina defense with John Fox in 2002, had some quality defenses in Jacksonville and has done quality work in Denver.

The Raiders are probably not exciting anybody with this hiring but a) that's by design (their list had been narrowed down to two coaches with head coaching experience in Del Rio and interim coach Tony Sparano) and b) they were not getting interested from the hottest of coaching targets. That makes sense considering the franchise has struggled to put together a winner of any sorts for years on end now and the future of the team is very much in question with significant stadium issues in Oakland.

The roster is rather underwhelming on the whole but there are some pieces to work with. Derek Carr played well as a rookie, better than I would have expected, and he had virtually nobody to throw the football too. Latavius Murray showed some flashes running the football. And last year's top draft pick Khalil Mack showed a lot of game in his rookie campaign, making him one of the top contenders for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Oakland knows what they are getting into with Del Rio and considering how he has been one of their top targets should Jim Harbaugh not come across San Francisco Bay. And for a franchise that could certainly use some stability, Del Rio makes sense. Let's just hope he leaves the ax and wood stumps at home.

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