The Oakland Raiders were humiliated against the New England Patriots last Sunday. Then, head coach Jack Del Rio humiliated himself during an interview on the Damon Bruce show on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, Del Rio tried, clearly shaken from the failures of the past two days, tried to take the attention off of himself by firing defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
Almost immediately, the move was panned by many as nothing more than a scapegoat firing aimed at taking the focus off of Del Rio.
First of all, the big time problem with the Raiders this season is on offense, not defense. In fact, I think there is a legitimate argument to be made that Oakland’s defense has improved this season, even if only slightly and even if the improvement still results in a bad unit. It’s the offense who made a major step back and that regression is the reason the Raiders record is what it is. They were capable of winning 12 games last season with a worse defense so clearly the major difference is on the other side of the ball.
Yet rather than make a move on offense, Del Rio fired Norton.
And then there is the fact that many believe the defense is actually ran by Del Rio, not Norton.
After making this statement, Malcolm Smith, who played for the Raiders and Bobby Wagner who played under Norton in Seattle both agreed with Smith’s assessment. Of course, it’s worth noting that both of these guys owe much of their success to Norton’s coaching as a linebackers coach so there is a reason for them to be loyal. But as the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
And I would argue that the smoking gun, if you will, came on Wednesday when both Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin missed practice for non-injury reasons. The team claimed it was a rest day but these two do not typically take rest days unless injured. In fact, Mack has only taken one rest day all season.