Fans tend to see things black and white when it comes to players and coaches. They see them as interchangeable parts who should be loyal during good times and tossed out in bad times. But there’s real human emotions involved in these decisions.
Sometimes those emotions are greater than others. For instance when a coach was living his dream of taking the head job for the team of which he grew up a fan. A team he helped return to the playoffs -- a height they hadn’t reached in 14 years.
It was no doubt the raw emotions of suffering the team’s fourth straight loss to finish this season that had Mark Davis firing the team immediately after Del Rio left the field.
It’s a seemingly cold way to end things, though merciful in a way to not leave him hanging only to making the decision more difficult tomorrow. But it doesn’t hurt any less for Del Rio.
Just a season after signing a 4-year extension, the head coach of the past three seasons in Oakland stood up at the podium and announced his own firing. Something that took great courage to do. And, yes, it got emotional.
I began to record right after his initial statement. Forgive the camera angle.
These moves also greatly affect the players. Most notably Derek Carr who has grown as a player over the past three seasons under Del Rio and his staff which took over and stabilized the team after Carr’s rookie season.
“It hurts. It is a sucky thing because we talked about it earlier this year,” said Carr. “He is family. You spend so much time with him. I met with coach Del Rio every Thursday morning since he has been here. We have spent time together at his events and we have created a bond. That’s a bond that will last forever.”
“I love him and I love his family. They have been great to me. We’ve had some great talks about life, football, and he has helped me grow so much as a player in my knowledge and understanding of the game.”
Just as you might expect, the players carry guilt for their part in how things played out. Even though all them know full well the business of football, many of whom have been released or let go by a team or several in their time in the NFL.
Middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman experienced that this season, just a two years removed from making three straight All Pro teams.
“I didn’t expect it,” Bowman said of Del Rio’s firing. “It’s a production business. You have to produce to stick around and earn this money. It is just part of the business. It sucks for him but I hope he lands back on his feet.”
“We weren’t good enough for him,” said Carr. “We have to take ownership as players. That’s where we are right now. We are kind of angry that we let it get to that. We are upset at ourselves.”
Carr said he didn’t see this coming. That Del Rio didn’t see it coming either. No one had an inkling Del Rio was to be fired prior to tonight.
Even tonight, everything happened so quickly after the game, many of the players found out from other players’ phones which were reading the news on twitter and the like. Some were coming out of the shower with shock at the news.
Mainly because Del Rio may not have known when he initially addressed the team.
“He addressed us. It wasn’t like a ‘Hey, farewell’ kind of thing,” Carr continued. “He addressed us just like he always does. He is a man. He stood in there and talked about things that we could do better, all those things as a team, just as he always does. There was no sign as he was talking to us.”
With the emotion Del Rio showed at the podium, you would think it would boil over when he spoke to his team had he known. Leading to most likely him finding out just after he addressed the team, with barely enough time to try and compose himself before taking the podium to speak to the media — something he was under no obligation to do. But chose to do.
After that, he met with Carr and Khalil Mack, the leaders of the team on both sides of the ball during his tenure to speak to them personally and give them the news.
“Both of us went in there and talked to him,” Carr said of he and Mack. “We hugged him and told him that we loved him. He said the same. He told us he loved us. He is a man’s man. When it is hard, he stood in there and talked to us. He was real about everything.”
Del Rio came into this game having heard the rumors about Jon Gruden. You’d have to think, as Adam Schefter pointed out after the the news of Del Rio’s firing, that Davis would not have made the move to fire Del Rio if he didn’t have Gruden in line to take over the job. Making it a business decision, but less to do with Del Rio than it does Davis finally having the head coach he’s wanted for years before Del Rio was in the picture. Doesn’t make it hurt any less.