Raiders need changes to take the next step

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Let me start by saying this: I like Jack Del Rio. He seems like a great guy, he grew up in the Bay Area, and he helped the Raiders begin to turn their fortunes around.

But, the numbers don’t lie.

He’s been a head coach in the NFL for 11 years now. In those 11 years, he’s manned the helm for three playoff appearances (2005 & 2007 with Jacksonville, 2016 with Oakland). His career record is 91-87 (68-71 with Jacksonville, 23-18 so far with Oakland).

He’s known for his defensive mind. He got a second chance as a head coach because of his work as the defensive coordinator (and interim Head Coach when John Fox missed time due to medical reasons) for Denver between 2012-2014.

Before he arrived in Denver, they were bad. But, the defensive foundation was put in place as he arrived. And they signed a QB named Peyton Manning.

The 2011 draft brought Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. (as an undrafted free agent). In the 2012 draft, during which Del Rio was just beginning his Denver tenure, Broncos drafted Derek Wolfe (Still a Denver mainstay), Malik Jackson (left for a large contract with Jacksonville), and Danny Trevathan (left for a large contract with Chicago). Let’s not forget that elite QB play helps a defense, too. Playing with a lead allows a defense to attack.

The Broncos defense took a major leap in Del Rio’s first year (2012), finishing 4th in points allowed and second in yards. In 2013 and 2014, when Manning wasn’t breaking almost every QB record known to man like he did in 2012, the Broncos defense slipped. They were 22nd in points and 19th in yards in 2013 and 16th in points and 3rd in yards in 2014.

After he left, the Broncos defense got better (with help from All-time great DC Wade Phillips) 4th in points allowed, 1st in yards in 2015. Followed by 4th in points and yards in 2016.

When Jack arrived in Oakland in 2015, the Raiders were terrible. He has done a fantastic job of changing the culture, and making the Raiders relevant. In his first two years, he helped to elevate Derek Carr’s confidence and game.

But, things have stagnated since the Raiders great run last season. Carr used a lot of 4th quarter magic to get the Raiders to their first playoff appearance since 2002. It’s not often that a team wins 12 games with a point differential for the season of +31 (Gruden’s 2000 Raiders won 12 games and had a point differential of +180, Callahan’s 2002 Raiders won 11 games with a point differential of +146. The Patriots were 12-4 every season from 2012-2015 and their point differential ranged from +106 on the low end and +226 on the high end).

It’s also not often that an offense that finished 7th in points and 6th in yards effectively fires (allowed his contract to expire) the offensive coordinator (Bill Musgrave). Carr threw for almost 8,000 yards, 60 TD’s, and just 19 interceptions in two years under Musgrave.

Musgrave worked under Del Rio, and was fired by him, in Jacksonville. Then he was brought back when Del Rio took the job in Oakland. He was the mind behind the strength and reason for success in Oakland. Replacing him with Todd Downing, the QB coach under Musgrave, who had no prior play calling experience was questionable at best. Sure, Musgrave wasn't perfect. I complained about his play calling against Kansas City last season in this article. But letting a guy who coordinated a top-10 offense and sparked the growth of your young QB is questionable at best.

Meanwhile, the Raiders defense (which is Del Rio’s forte) has been below average every year since he came in.

For the first time in a long time, the Raiders have too much talent to be struggling the way they are. Their best players are not being used best.

Khalil Mack is being wasted by a lack of scheming to move him around and get him off of double and triple teams. Their supremely talented (and expensive) offensive line is underperforming. Derek Carr has already thrown more interceptions this season (7) than he did all of last year (6). Amari Cooper was supposed to continue his growth and place his name among the best in the business.. But, he leads the NFL in drops and has just been invisible far too often.

For that many things to be going wrong with a team that has so much talent, the question is not about what is wrong with all of these players… It’s why hasn’t the coaching staff done something to put the train back on the tracks.

Jack Del Rio appears to be a great guy. He’s a good defensive coordinator. But he’s just an average head coach. He just signed a four-year extension in February. But if the Raiders want to maximize their team, they need to change something in the offseason.

They have an abundance of talent on the offensive side. That means they need have Del Rio bring in an offensive mind to handle that side of the ball, or move on alltogether. You needn’t look further than the Los Angeles Rams to see what a bright offensive coaching staff can do to spark a team with offensive potential.

*All numbers came from Pro Football Reference.

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