What a fittingly wacky, entertaining way for the Oakland Raiders’ 2017 to end. The calendar-year started with a devastating loss to the Denver Broncos that cost the Raiders an AFC West title and a playoff home game. We should’ve known it was a sign of things to come.
Jack Del Rio was canned on New Year’s Eve some 21 minutes after the final whistle blew in their 30-10 loss to the L.A. Chargers, and to Del Rio’s credit, he handled the news with class while he announced the news to the media.
But if the Jon Gruden rumors are true and he’s the next head coach of the Raiders (I’ve been told it’s a done deal by multiple sources), then 2018 is already on pace to be a rebound year.
Mark Davis’ plan is to pull Gruden out of the commentating booth because it’s a splashy move that can get fans excited. While, in the meantime, he’s investing in a leader who can help ease the transition to Las Vegas.
So why ax Del Rio? Because he simply wasn’t able to take this franchise to the next level just like Mark Jackson with the Golden State Warriors.
Sure, he walked into Alameda and helped get this franchise moving in the right direction, but he ran out of goodwill after he mismanaged this season.
First of all, Del Rio rode the coattails of Derek Carr’s 2017 heroics and parlayed that into a contract extension. I’ve been told Del Rio lobbied hard for the new contract, and granting his wish was a mistake.
Don’t forget, this is the same coach who failed to win a division title in his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars, so why did Davis give him the new deal prematurely? That’s a question Davis will have to answer.
Here’s what former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor had to say about his former coach, Del Rio: “With Jack, you never knew what you were getting. You don’t know if you’ll get a hard-ass one day, a buddy-buddy one day. You never really knew.”
Well, according to my partner-in-crime, Greg Papa on 95.7 The Game, nobody knew that Del Rio and his coaching staff would turn their backs on Carr, lambasting him in front of the entire team after a late-season loss to Kansas City.
Heck, Del Rio — during his weekly interviews with Damon Bruce — had no problem throwing players under the bus for blowing an assignment. And then there’s Vic Tafur’s latest piece for The Athletic, which quotes unnamed players questioning the leadership in Oakland’s locker room.
Hiring John Pagano in January of 2017 to NOT be the defensive coordinator was befuddling because he was obviously more qualified than Ken Norton Jr. Why hire Pagano just to start a power struggle? It made no sense.
And that wasn’t his worst decision regarding coordinators. Because there was no reason to fire Bill Musgrave when he had the Raiders offense humming as a top-ten unit. That led to the promotion of Todd Downing, who was so far in over his head as a first-year offensive coordinator.
The offense regressed and most importantly, the face of the franchise, Carr, became broken down mentally and physically. Gruden’s No. 1 job will be to repair the franchise quarterback.
Leadership and accountability lacked with Del Rio in 2017, and that was glaring from early in training camp. Marshawn Lynch did what he wanted on this team and that what makes him loveable, but on a team that doesn’t have much veteran leadership, that can disrupt a locker room.
The young stars on both sides of the ball took a step backward this year, and if history has taught us anything, it was that Del Rio is not the guy to turn that around.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.