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Win or lose, Jack Del Rio won’t hide how he’s feeling

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Jack Del Rio wears his heart on his sleeve, and it hasn’t been always pretty this year as the Oakland Raiders have fallen far short of expectations. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Of the 32 head coaches in the NFL, only seven have Twitter accounts. And only one utilizes his handle in the style of Jack Del Rio, the maligned boss of the Oakland Raiders.

In the wake of his club’s contentious 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, Del Rio went home and retweeted Deadspin, a leading purveyor of the snarkiest takes in the sports media Twitterverse.

“$13 billion industry uses folded-up piece of paper to determine outcomes,” the tweet read.

While expressing a fundamentally cogent point, the tweet lost the broader context — that the Cowboys had received an unfavorable spot and that three plays later the Raiders would surrender a backbreaking 40-yard strike from Dak Prescott to Dez Bryant, setting up the fatal field goal.

It was a retweet of an incensed fan — not an NFL head coach.

The next day, when Del Rio sat down on the podium at the club’s Alameda headquarters for the customary postmortem news conference, he subtly dropped an index card on the table. It was the perfect passive-aggressive follow-up to his fanboy-ish retweet.

On Thursday, when it was time to deliver his midweek update, a reporter asked Del Rio if he’d washed the bad taste out of his mouth.

“I’m not going back,” Del Rio said. “I’m not going back.

“I’ve already said how I feel about it. I’m not going to go back there and risk showing anger … and all of a sudden getting myself fined because I say the wrong thing. So, I’ve already said enough.”

Pressed as to whether he’d reached out to the league about the unusual fourth-down measurement, Del Rio offered up a one-word reply.

“Yes.”

He stared, unscrewed his water bottle and took a swig.

A close study of Del Rio at the mic suggests the reach for the water bottle — consciously or otherwise — comes when he’s less than thrilled with a question.

Following the Week 5 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the third in what would be a four-game slide, a reporter had the gall to wonder whether the Raiders, who’d just been outscored 14-3 in the first quarter, were ready to play from the jump.

Before answering, Del Rio spent 13 seconds staring down the reporter and briefly reaching for his bottle before answering.

“Clearly not what we wanted there.”

Some 10 months after owner Mark Davis “tore up” Del Rio’s original contract and gifted him a four-year extension, it’s all unraveling around the Raider leader.

After axing 19 assistants during his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Del Rio has been a coordinator killer in Oakland. He dismissed then-offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last year and scapegoated former defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.  after the Patriots fiasco in Mexico City.

Todd Downing’s rookie season as OC has been so uproariously bad that reports have swirled for months claiming that Derek Carr’s handpicked boss will be one-and-done.

In the parlance of the National Football League, Del Rio is a football guy. He’s the classic leader of men, a motivational speaker and a builder of culture. The NFL’s Mark Jackson or maybe just another Jeff Fisher.

During the Raiders’ stormy 2017, Del Rio’s moods have swung as wildly as the team’s performance has. He beams after wins, his confidence bordering on smug. He sulks and snarls after losses.

Del Rio also expressed his dismay via Twitter when Michael Crabtree drew a two-game ban for inciting a brawl in the Week 12 win over the Denver Broncos.

The coach quote-tweeted a beat reporter sharing news of the suspension, beginning his commentary with a thinking man emoji.

“Hard to understand the reasoning for this judgement based on most recent ruling w/ altercation see WR Cin and DB Jax = 0 games suspended,” Del Rio wrote.

While Del Rio has proven to be a capricious voice of the Raiders, his co-spokesperson, Carr, has struck a far more balanced and charismatic note. Aside from a dejected news conference following the Week 14 no-show in Kansas City, Carr, in a season interrupted by a transverse process fracture in back, remains redeemable.

Having lived through a 3-13 rookie season, Carr knows how to rise from the wreckage. Sitting in Seattle after a defeat to the Seahawks sank the Raiders to 0-8, a local reporter asked Carr if all the losses were ruining him.

Carr chuckled as he recalled the exchange.

“I said, ‘Not if I know who I am,’” Carr said. “And it’s one of those things that I use everything that I go through and things [I experience] to get better. I use it all to just fuel the fire, grow and learn from.”

Downing, ever loyal to his quarterback, said Carr’s ability to set the tone for the team often goes overlooked.

“I think Derek’s leadership is something that doesn’t get talked about enough,” Downing said.

The offensive play caller, always one to harp on the importance of being consistent, is plenty familiar with Carr’s even-keeled style.

“Watching him develop leadership in the toughest of times, watching him take accountability in the toughest of times, it’s not something that surprised me because I’ve known him for a while now, but it was certainly good to [see].”

While Carr and Downing try to keep it consistent amid the chaos, the question when it comes to Del Rio is simple: What will he tweet next?

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

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