Black Monday is only a day away. The fate of the many NFL coaches on the hot seat will be decided and there is a chance, depending on how Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers turns out, that the Oakland Raiders will be partaking in Black Monday.
Whatever the decision Mark Davis makes following the game, it will have a lasting impact. If Jack Del Rio is kept for the 2018 season, I could foresee his tenure continuing past that and here’s why.
Oakland will be a playoff team in 2018. Del Rio, if at the helm, will most likely keep John Pagano on the staff since he has vastly improved a porous defense. He has brought the best out of the secondary, like Reggie Nelson, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith, and has helped Bruce Irvin return to form as well.
If minimal changes are made, along with the additions of Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu, whatever draft picks and a few Reggie McKenzie type free agent signings, the defense at the worst should be middle of the pack in 2018 with potential to be above average.
The defense wasn’t the issue on the team this season since the expectations were so low. It was the offense that let the team down and now needs the most fixing heading into 2018. That fix shouldn’t be hard considering the talent that Oakland possesses. It was also just 12 months ago that this offense was nearly unstoppable with almost identical personnel.
Del Rio needs to find a competent offensive coordinator to come in and lead this group. Remember, Bill Musgrave was never touted as an elite offensive mind, many wanted him gone for his predictable play calling in 2016, but he still managed to lead this offense to an astounding season.
Any established and well respected offensive mind should easily turn this group around. Also, it should be an attractive job that would captivate high level candidates with the opportunity to turn around the mess that was Derek Carr and Amari Cooper this year.
Any prospective offensive coordinator knows if he can put this Raiders offense back in the top 5, he will be right in line for another head coaching job following his tenure in Oakland.
That OC will have Derek Carr at QB, who will not be the timid player he was this season. The injuries may not have had a physical impact on him anymore, but it is obvious there was a mental wall for Carr as he was quick to throw the football and scared to use his feet.
A full offseason of preparing instead of recovering will have Carr looking closer to the confident leader and playmaker he was in 2016.
Should Oakland earn a playoff berth in 2018, there would be no possible way they would fire Del Rio after a return to the postseason.
With Oakland’s talented roster, Del Rio is good enough to compete for a playoff spot and maybe win a playoff game. Even if it seems unlikely that he would be able to take this team to a Super Bowl as he is constantly outmatched by the best coaches around the league.
At this moment, firing Del Rio just to fire him is not the right move. Del Rio should be kept onboard until the moment Davis can find himself an established head man (Jon Gruden?) or a promising coach in hopes of turning out another Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan.
If Oakland doesn’t make a coaching change at the conclusion of this offseason, then I doubt there would be one until 2020 knowing this team is talented enough for a run at the postseason whether it’s with Del Rio, Gruden or whomever captaining the ship next season. That would earn them at least the following season — which figures to be their final season in Oakland — before moving to Las Vegas, if not beyond.