A fact lost among the star power of the players and head coaches live the coordinators, the minds behind the execution. Some of these tactical experts are either former head coaches looking for another chance or those looking for their first shot. The life of a coordinator does not appear glamorous. They don’t see much air time or press. Yet, when their unit fails, they are the first ones fired. Head Coach will sacrifice coordinators in a minute. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they face at least three dynamic ones. In no particular order:
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Matt Patricia (Patriots): If you think the Patriots’ defense is solely on Belichick, think again. For seven seasons, Patricia operates as the sole play defensive play caller. That is to say, he’s the one responsible for the adjustments that forced the Falcons into the greatest choke in NFL history. What Patricia does is interesting. He forces the offense to make a quicker decision. Then, he will keep adjusting. While I am no fan of Ken Norton, Patricia is the coordinator he needs to take notes from. Look for him to keep the Raiders off balance early.
Bob Sutton (Chiefs): When Andy Reid took over in 2015, his reputation as a pass-first coach followed him. Yet, what no one knew that the Chiefs would build a top-tier defense at all three levels. Through shrewd drafting and coaching, the Chiefs never seem out of a game. Sutton uses his talents wisely, and the results speak for themselves. In 2016, the Chiefs surrendered just 19.4 points per game, ranking them seventh. Sutton uses three above average pass rushers effectively. Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Tamba Hali essentially attack the pocket the same way. Yet, through Sutton, each can play on the field with the other two. In the secondary, Sutton doesn’t attempt to rein in Marcus Peters. Instead, he lets the corner attack, which the Raiders know all too well.
Scott Linehan (Dallas): Before scratching your head, realize this man’s track record. In Detroit, he crafted a rookie quarterback, turning him into a perennial 4,000 yard passer. Under Linehan, Matthew Stafford enjoyed his best statistical year as a pro in 2011. For Dallas, Linehan was charged with crafting the playcalling for a rookie passer and rusher. Although, Dallas employs a top tier offensive line, Linehan’s decisions must be on point. He will test the Raiders ability to cover Jason Witten. Also, look for him to send Terrance Williams vertical.
Whereas these coaches are not household names, they need the respect and attention of fans. The Raiders’ schedule is not a cakewalk. Talented teams occupy spots up and down. In essence, winning these chess matchup will go far in determining the season.