Before the Oakland Raiders extended the contract of Jack Del Rio this past offseason, I wrote about how it would be wise for Mark Davis to hold off for a year or two before extending Del Rio. And now, with the Raiders in a tailspin, it’s looking more and more like the extension was a mistake.
At the time, Del Rio was one of if not the lowest paid head coach in the league so a raise was definitely in order, but there was no need to tack on extra years just yet. Del Rio had done well in his first two years with the team but that was a rather small sample size.
And more important than the sample size was the fact that Del Rio had just made two major decisions with his coaching staff that were far from being safe bets.
Not only did he decide to keep Ken Norton, Jr. despite being the architect of one of the league’s worst defenses, he also decided to part ways with Bill Musgrave, the architect of one of the league’s best offenses. It’s only five games into the year and things could obviously change, but so far, both of those decisions look like mistakes.
On defense, we have seen some improvement and truth be told, they don’t hold much responsibility for the first two losses in the current skid. But they hold most of the responsibility for Sunday’s loss and while they have improved, they really haven’t improved enough. Clearly there is an issue with regards to the talent in the secondary and that’s not on Norton, but there are plenty of issues that you can put on Norton.
And what’s more, it’s hard to give Norton credit for the aspects of the defense that have gotten better. The pass rush has improved (though again, not enough) but that’s in large part due to a healthy Mario Edwards, Jr. and new blitz packages that are clearly the impact of assistant defensive head coach John Pagano.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Raiders have gone from a top tier offense to one that has looked borderline inept at times over the past three weeks. And when you look at the possible reasons why the offense is struggling, Todd Downing has to be pretty high on that list. When it comes to personnel, the Raiders offense was upgraded with the additions of Jared Cook, Cordarrelle Patterson and Marshawn Lynch, so it’s hard to place blame on the roster like you can with the defensive secondary.
The biggest difference between this season and last season in terms of the offense is the move from Bill Musgrave to Todd Downing. And that’s not to say Musgrave was great by any means. But so far, Downing has been a downgrade.
THE LACK OF MOTIVATION
Jack Del Rio is supposed to be a motivator. He’s never been known as a great defensive coordinator but has been known as a good leader of men. A guy who gets his players to buy in and play hard.
The thing is, this team has not looked like one who has bought in or is playing hard for their coach. At least not over the past three weeks. It sure seemed like that last season but now, it almost looks like Del Rio has lost the team and is struggling to get it back.
When a team with this much talent looks as bad as the Raiders have over the past three weeks, you always have to look in the direction of the head coach. And when that head coach’s best trait is motivating his players and those players don’t look motivated, you have to look even harder at the head coach.