Most NFL teams know when their season’s coming to a close. A team disqualified from the postseason has a firm end date, which allows for perspective shortly after the season ends.
Jack Del Rio didn’t have that luxury. He fully expected to be preparing for the AFC’s divisional round on Sunday afternoon, not reviewing a season formally done.
That was his lot following Saturday’s 27-14 loss in Houston, which closed the Raiders season with two straight losses that killed hopes of a division title and advancement in the playoffs.
It was a rough fortnight for Del Rio, who lost starting quarterback Derek Carr and left tackle Donald Penn to injury and had illness run rampant through his locker room.
The season’s abrupt, unwelcome end left the Raiders "a little raw" less than 24 hours after it came to a close, but Del Rio still believes significant progress was made.
“We’ll definitely be able to look back and be proud of what we accomplished this year,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “Then you let that sting that you feel from having it end the way it did be a reminder of how hard you need to push, how much work is in front of us, and let that fuel the type of offseason we need to have.
“We should expect more, and I’m going to demand more. We’ll evaluate everything. That’s what you do this time of year."
The Raiders will have high expectations after improving from 7-9 in 2015 to 12-4 this year, especially with a few missions unaccomplished in 2016. The Raiders didn’t win the AFC West. They didn’t host a playoff game, or advance in the postseason.
There will be plenty of positives to be analyzed in coming weeks, but Del Rio won’t look at the 2016 season as a gold standard. He’ll want more from next year’s group.
“There’s been a great deal accomplished, there’s no question about that. Is it enough? No,” Del Rio said. “I want more. We want more. As an organization, our goals are higher. So, that’s not going to change. We’re not going to pretend that it wasn’t really good. You win 12 games, that’s hard to do in this league. We won six in a row at one stretch and never really had back-to-back losses prior to yesterday.
“A lot of really good things were going on and are going on. We want to build on those. Recognize where we need to be better, and there’s several areas where we must be better in. Just kind of own up to it and roll up our sleeves and get busy.”
Del Rio will lead a complete roster evaluation, and decide where upgrades can be made. There could be changes to the coaching staff. That remains uncertain.
The Raiders definitely won’t stand pat, even with Carr’s injury complicating whether this roster was good enough for a Super Bowl run with the MVP candidate at the helm.
“We made great strides, but there’s still work to be done,” Del Rio said. “It’s not like there’s any one area where I feel like I can just say, ‘Yeah, we’ve arrived.’ I don’t feel that way. I feel like we have a really good team and I feel like there are many areas where we can improve and must improve to be the kind of football team that I want us to be.”