In postgame press conferences, one of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s favorite lines is “You get what you earn in this league.” It’s a great line as it fits the outcome of a game, a player’s playing time, and the amount of opportunities he gets to make plays.
One thing that’s clear; the Raiders deserve their 3-5 record. That’s what they’ve earned. What certain players and coaches are doing to earn what their way is not so clear.
Starting with the players, running back Marshawn Lynch has only earned the criticism he got for running onto the field against the Kansas City Chiefs. But he has not earned the criticism he’s getting for averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Most of that yardage comes after contact, something he’s still among the league’s leaders in.
He still has the burst and runs over linebackers and defensive lineman. But the big problem is Lynch has averaged only nine carries since Week 1. You see the difference between Adrian Peterson getting the ball with the Arizona Cardinals and not getting it with the New Orleans Saints. Lynch is also one of his generation’s best RBs so he has earned the right to carry the ball 20-plus times in a game to see what he still has.
Bruce Irvin is a good football player but as a pass rusher, he’s not very good. His best season was when he had eight sacks as a rookie. The NFC West adjusted to his speed and was able to quickly turn him into a non factor. After a seven-sack season last year, the AFC West has adjusted to his speed and he has only two sacks at midseason.
Irvin is outstanding in coverage and has done well playing some off-the-ball linebacker while with the Seattle Seahawks. But if he were any kind of pass rusher, the former first-round pick would still be with them. He didn’t earn his four-year, $37 million contract ($9 million-plus per year) with the Raiders then and he sure isn’t earning it now.
Sean Smith and David Amerson
Sean Smith was once one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL a couple of years ago. So the Raiders gave him a four-year, $38 million ($9 million-plus per year) contract. And all he’s done is get beat deep to the point where he only played Sunday because there are two injured CBs.
David Amerson earned his four-year, $33 million ($8 million-plus per year) contract. The Raiders picked him up on waivers in 2015 and he became the Raiders best corner. He was also one of the best in the NFL but he fell to average in 2016. Now, he’s getting beat deep way too often so no, he’s not earning what he’s getting either.
Reggie Nelson is one of Del Rio’s boys as he drafted him while with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that was a long time ago as his speed made up for his lack of instincts. Now, he still doesn’t have instincts and he no longer has the speed to make up for it. As a result, he’s always late getting over to help defend the deep ball.
He had eight interceptions in 2015 to earn the $4 million-plus per year contract he got with the Raiders. But for those that didn’t know, Nelson was lining up 20 yards deep then. He had five INTs with the Raiders last year but most of them were tipped by another player first. And he has been late to the deep ball since he’s been a Raider so he’s not earning what he’s getting.
Ken Norton Jr.
Ken Norton Jr. did nothing to earn the defensive coordinator position he has now but be Del Rio’s teammate with the Dallas Cowboys. He has never been a defensive coordinator at any level and watching him on Sundays has been like watching the amature hour.
There have been countless blown coverages and wasted timeouts due to the defense not being lined up right. There has been less of that this year with John Pagano coming over to help out. But Norton’s scheme has been plain ineffective. Having Irvin at SAM over Khalil Mack, who can be one of the most dominant SAM LBs ever, doesn’t help.
His best year with the Raiders is in 2015 when he had the defense ranked No. 22 overall. And it’s not getting better as they are currently No. 25 after ranking No. 26 last year. The only thing Norton is earning right now is getting fired.
For whatever the reason Del Rio fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave after last year. This was a surprise because he previously admitted that he made a mistake in firing him in Jacksonville. Plus he was doing a good job as the offense was ranked No. 6 overall in the NFL last year.
And when he replaced him with Todd Downing, Downing wanted to put his own fingerprints on it. He seemed to say, “Forget the running game, play action passes and the deep ball, we’re going to dink and dunk our way down the field.”
And he’s doing this with Amari Cooper, his most dynamic receiver, being a deep threat and Lynch splitting the load with a 2016 fifth-round pick and undrafted free agent. The Raiders have the most talented offense in football and they’re ranked No. 20. Taking the No. 6-ranked offense to No. 20 while adding talent earns you nothing but a firing.
Jack Del Rio
I love Jack Del Rio as a leader of men and having the stones to go for it on fourth down and go for two after touchdowns to win games. But he fired an offensive coordinator after he finished with a top-10 offense and refused to fire a defensive coordinator that has run a horrible defense every year.
So I’m not going to say he’s earned getting fired by McKenzie. But he has earned McKenzie going in there and making him shake up his staff if he doesn’t have plans of doing so. He should say, ‘Jack, I like the way you lead the team but you need some better coordinators to bring in better X’s and O’s. I don’t want to have to fire you.’