There were a few people who were a bit surprised when just two seasons into his four-year contract as Raiders head coach, Jack Del Rio received a new four-year deal with the team.
Del Rio coached the team back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, but most, including myself, figured it would take another winning season to get another deal. But that’s not the agreement Del Rio and Mark Davis had made. Part of that agreement was Del Rio taking a lesser contract than he thought he was worth in order to earn a more appropriate contract.
“I’m very appreciative of Mark Davis tearing up my contract and giving me a new four-year deal,” Del Rio said in his scouting combine press conference Thursday. “That was just more of MD following through and being a man of his word. When we talked about the vision that I had for the franchise and the possibility of me joining him as his head coach . . . One of those things was, I bet on me on the contract. It wasn’t a very good contract to start with, but it was an opportunity and I bet on our ability to get this thing turned around and I feel like we have. Again he was a man of his word and he stepped up and tore up that deal and gave me a new one.
“I knew I was signing a deal that was less than maybe what a guy with nine years head coaching experience would deserve. But there’s one thing about, I would say throughout life, many moments where you find the ability to humble yourself and just keep your head down and keep working hard and that side of it usually takes care of itself. To me it’s about being involved in something that you have passion for, putting forth the energy and the effort and not being about the money.
“I think in the end, the money comes — but the reason I coach, I love to impact young men, I love to teach and inspire and motivate and help them be the best as players and even off the field. So, I love what I do so it made it a no-brainer for me.”
When you look at it, what the Raiders did last season wasn’t entirely out of nowhere. The previous season, Del Rio’s first as head coach in Oakland, the team jumped to 7-9 – a four-game improvement and their best record since 2011 (8-8).
That resurgence was noticeable by NFL analysts across the sports world and these new Raiders were the talk of the offseason. What they did in going 12-4 was simply live up to all the new expectations of them.
“I thought in Year 1, we learned how to compete,” said Del Rio. “Went into Oakland, obviously a great opportunity and a team I grew up loving. But we learned how to compete in Year 1. Year 2, I thought we learned how to finish games and win. And for us in Year 3, it’s about building on the foundation that we’ve established and understanding that we’re just getting started. Got a long way to go, a lot of work to do.”
It was the additions of players like Kelechi Osemele and Bruce Irvin that helped elevate the team last offseason. As well as the development of Derek Carr. Those areas and the 12-win season that put the trust in Mark Davis that Del Rio was the long term solution at head coach the Raiders were looking for. And just as Del Rio had done a few times in games this season; his gambit paid off.