Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio benefitted greatly from his time in Jacksonville and Denver. Going from a hardnosed, old school coach to something of a bridge between time honored tradition and the cutting edge. Specifically, the following aspects brought Del Rio from gimmicky overachiever to the cusp of breaking through as a perennial top 10 head coach.
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Often trending towards the label “Players Coach”, one of the biggest concerns for players transitioning to coaching is the expected professionalism of a coach. Del Rio was certainly a victim of that mindset early on in his first year as a Head Coach. Aside from the “Keep Choppin” incident, he also drew some unwanted attention with his suit wearing. However, he seems to have grown tremendously with his command of the locker room and his relationship with the media. This is perhaps best evidence by his response to the Marshawn Lynch (anthem situation. As a man who thinks traditionally, he was very careful yet candid about his opinion without imposing his own beliefs on to his player. This remains an important skill to possess. It demonstrates the ability to handle any type of media attention that might come his way.
Del Rio’s time in Denver ensured that can do well with managing egos. This was best illustrated by the job he did as interim Head Coach for the Broncos during the final stretch of the 2013 season. Del Rio doesn’t get nearly enough credit for winning three of four games with his only loss coming in against the New England Patriots in overtime. He displayed the same traits when benching Sean Smith in the opening game last season. Del Rio made it clear that his team would be a meritocracy and that no one would be able to get by on reputation. Coach Del Rio may not be the best at schemes. Yet, he has no problem rewarding production and benching the ineffective.
As a defensive-minded head coach, you’d expect Del Rio to be more on the conservative in terms of game management. That was probably true until the opening game of the Raiders first winning season in 15 years. The decision to go for the kill in regulation against the Saints set the tone for the 2016 season. In addition, that decision became a source of pride for the team. To be fair, the quarterbacks of Del Rio’s past had not demonstrated the talent of Derek Carr. Yet, but it seems as though he recognizes he has the talent to take these kinds of risks.
The single biggest blessing Jack Del Rio enjoyed since coming to the Raiders, and the best shot he has at making the leap, is his General Manager. Since Del Rio’s first day as Head Coach, Reggie McKenzie has given him his full backing and the two seem to be in lock-step. This makes decision-making easier for them in terms of free agent personnel, travel arrangements, and when to take draft risks. In the current
NFL, that kind of uniformity is becoming increasingly rare. As a result, front offices and head coaches suffer frequent turn over. However, with a united front McKenzie and Del Rio provide both job security to each other. Plus, the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to excellence.