From all indications, the Raiders next head coach will be Jack Del Rio. That's Broncos Defensive Coordinator, Jack Del Rio. A title that many Raiders fans seem to not be able to get over because the last head coach this team hired was Broncos Defensive Coordinator, Dennis Allen. Well, let me ease your mind a bit, if I may.
"Broncos Defensive Coordinator" is a title. It should not be used as a label. Because outside of that recent job title, Jack Del Rio and Dennis Allen have almost nothing in common. In fact, that title is the least important aspect of either coach's resume.
Let's look at those differences
He was with the Broncos for just one season. So, perhaps that label was even less fitting of him. Not only had he never held a head coaching position, but he was a coordinator for all of one season. He was one season removed from being a defensive backs coach and became defensive coordinator on a team with a defensive head coach. So, for all intents and purposes, he was a glorified position coach.
According to a recent study of NFL head coaching hires in the past 25 years, the least successful head coaches were the few that were hired from position coach to head coach. Not exactly a surprising result.
Jack Del Rio
The only head coaching candidate on the market this off-season with more experience than Jack Del Rio is Mike Shanahan. And let's not open that box right now.
Del Rio was head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for nine seasons. In that time he took the Jaguars to the playoffs twice and had an overall 68-71 record.
So, maybe a better title for Del Rio is former Jaguars Head Coach instead of the job he has held the past three seasons? While Dennis Allen's title should be former Defensive Backs coach.
Opportunity vs Choice
Next you look at why Dennis Allen took the job with the Broncos and the Raiders as opposed to why Jack Del Rio looks to be following the same path.
Allen was considered a bright young mind in the coaching ranks. Guys like him pop up every off-season and it seems to be different names every year. He had been the secondary coach in New Orleans for three seasons when his name came up as a possible DC. John Fox had taken the job in Denver and was looking to fill out his staff.
When you're a young position coach and you're offered a defensive coordinator job, no matter where it is, you usually take it. And Fox was filling out a new staff so his options were not plentiful.
After one season in Denver, coordinating a defense that finished the season 24th in the league in points and 20th in yards, Reggie McKenzie came onboard as Raiders GM and apparently thought that was some fine coordinatin' and he made Allen ‘his guy' as the next head coach.
Again, opportunity came knocking, and as a young up and coming coach in the NFL, you take that job when it's offered because you don't know when it will be offered again.
John Fox probably saw the Raiders eagerness to take Allen from him as a blessing. That same off-season, the Jaguars fired Del Rio and Fox pounced.
The thing is, Fox didn't have to convince Del Rio to join him in Denver. It didn't matter where Fox was coaching, Del Rio would have joined him. You see, prior to becoming the Jaguars head coach, Del Rio was Defensive Coordinator in Carolina under John Fox. There was mutual respect there and they reunited.
If/when Del Rio is hired by the Raiders, I wouldn't count on Fox jumping at the chance to hire Dennis Allen back as his Defensive Coordinator.
Oh, and by the way, in Del Rio's first season replacing Allen in Denver, the Broncos defense jumped to being ranked 4th in points, 2nd in yards. That's an improvement of 20 spots in one area and 18 spots in the other.
In both cases, Del Rio earned the respect to be hired to his position and in both cases, Allen was someone the Broncos and Raiders were taking a chance on and it didn't pay off.
While this one isn't entirely the fault of Dennis Allen, he does shoulder some of the blame. His personnel decisions were highly questionable, bordering on just plain terrible in some cases.
The most glaring mistake was bringing in Greg Knapp for a second stint with the Raiders as offensive coordinator. Allen was a big proponent of the zone blocking scheme and his decision to switch the Raiders stable group of power blocking linemen to a new scheme in the midst of all the other uncertainties proved to be a disaster.
The other hire that was odd was that of Special Teams Coordinator, Steve Hoffman. The issue here was Hoffman was a kicker/punter specialist. This for a team that had Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler in place as the longest tenured kicker/punter duo in football. The last thing the Raiders special teams needed was help with kicking and punting. What they needed was help in coverage and returns. Again, a failed experiment.
Del Rio has watched as members of his former staff in Jacksonville have gone on to successful careers of their own. It's what we call a coaching tree. His Defensive Coordinator, Mike Smith, went on to become head coach of the Atlanta Falcons (2008-14). Dirk Koetter, who was Del Rio's Offensive Coordinator and later OC for Smith in Atlanta, is one of the most respected offensive minds in the NFL. With the housecleaning happening in Atlanta, Koetter was quickly hired by the Buccaneers this off-season.
Another former Offensive Coordinator of his was Carl Smith who is the QB coach for the Seahawks whose QB Russell Wilson instantly became one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL two season ago, led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win last year, and is on his way to perhaps another.
Another former OC for Del Rio is Bill Musgrave who is the QB coach in Philadelphia where they just somehow managed to get Mark Sanchez to look like a top flight NFL QB this season. Interesting fact: Musgrave got his first NFL coaching gig with the Raiders in 1997 as a QB coach.
There is little doubt that if there are good coaches to be had out there - and there are - that they would not be hesitant to work with Del Rio.
This category goes two ways. It means respect for him and respect from him. Respect is something Dennis Allen saw begin to decline almost immediately within the Raiders organization. He never had much respect for the Raiders history and it wasn't long before those within the Raiders organization had begun losing respect for him -- with the exception of perhaps Reggie McKenzie. And I mean before he had ever coached a game.
For you to understand why this is important, let me tell you a little story which was told to me by two different sources close to the situation.
As part of the new regime, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen went about "changing the culture" within the Raiders organization. That meant the team's rogue identity as well. Allen and McKenzie very much of like mind in this.
One source close to the situation recalled an instance a couple months into Dennis Allen's time as head coach when he first addressed the staff as a whole. In that address, Allen noted the famous Raiders motto ‘There's 31 NFL teams, and then there's the Raiders'. Neither he nor McKenzie wanted this motto to represent the Raiders any longer.
A second source said the purpose of the message was to get away from the losing ways the Raiders have had the past decade as well as their longtime penchant for putting up copious amounts of penalties.
The problem with that intention is it is devoid of any understanding of the meaning behind the term. The Raiders have long had that identity. It was first uttered during a time when they were on of the best teams in all of football and they won three Super Bowls with that mindset. Essentially you can't really have the Raiders without it.
In the process of distancing themselves from the old regime and painting a new picture of a bright future for the Raiders, Allen and McKenzie were stepping all over the memory of Al Davis; whether intentionally or unintentionally. This didn't sit well with Mark, who, according to one source, several times had to angrily defend the legacy of his father within the organization as well as in the media. In particular, with Dennis Allen.
In addition, Allen's lack of respect for his staff began to take its toll. As a result, Allen was not well-liked in the organization. The former Bronco was viewed as being not too keen on the fans either.
It wasn't long before Mark Davis began distancing himself from Allen as well, saying on several occasions that Allen was "Reggie's guy".
Perhaps more importantly, Allen had lost the respect of his players. They had flatlined and after going 0-4 to start last season along with a 10-game losing streak, he was fired. The players' lack of motivation under Allen became more obvious when Tony Sparano took over as Interim Head Coach and the team started to finally show signs of life.
Del Rio was respected enough to hold onto a head coaching job for nine seasons, then afterward be asked back as defensive coordinator by the man under whom he once worked. That's respect.
Players like Del Rio. They want to play for him. He is a former longtime NFL player himself. He went on to coach under Mike Ditka, Brian Billick, and John Fox. I can't imagine three better coaching mentors than those three.
As for his respect for the Raiders, he grew up a Raiders fan in the Bay Area. He was 13-years old when the Raiders won their first Super Bowl. They won a second Super Bowl while he was in High School at Hayward High School.
In 1982 the Raiders moved to Los Angeles and Del Rio went with them to attend college at USC. He then watched the Los Angeles Raiders win a Super Bowl with USC star, Marcus Allen winning MVP.
His parents still live in the Bay Area and are Raiders season ticket holders to this day.
You think Del Rio knows a thing or two about the Raiders and what they represent to the NFL? Still think it's not important? Well, Mark Davis does.