Raiders

Jack Del Rio bet on himself and won with new contract extension

Jack Del Rio bet on himself and won with new contract extension

Jack Del Rio really wanted to become the Raiders head coach. He’s an East Bay guy, and saw an opportunity to turn around a franchise he grew up following. That prompted him to sign a below-market contract, one that put his salary near the bottom of his profession.

He was the NFL’s lowest paid coach after the 2016 season, until owner Mark Davis tore up his contract last month and gave him a better deal.

“That’s a credit to MD,” Del Rio said in a Thursday press conference at the NFL scouting combine. “One of those things was, I bet on me on my 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.”

That happened halfway through the deal, following a 12-4 campaign and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002. The Raiders are on the right path, with a competitive window that should be open a while.

Del Rio needed some tools turning the Raiders around, which meant Davis had to write a few checks. The new head coach mandated the Raiders upgrade their practice facility, and Davis approved significant renovations despite the fact he was focused on relocating away from the Bay Area.

He added a state-of-the-art performance center behind the original property. He installed new practice fields, including an improved drainage system that prevents the soggy conditions that plagued the previous surface. The facility itself got a facelift, with adding new technology and a steam room to the building.

“When we talked about the vision I had for the franchise, and the possibility of me joining him as his head coach, there were several things I laid out that I thought was imperative,” Del Rio said. “Facility upgrade, and things like this. And he’s been very, very generous and supportive for Reggie and I to be as unified as we are and out and acquire the players we need and provide them with the kind of performance center and work environment for a first-class organization.”

Del Rio’s first contract was about getting his foot in the door and returning to the head coaching ranks. He had that title nine years in Jacksonville, and was Denver’s defensive coordinator three years after that. Del Rio wanted to be a head coach again and saw opportunity to turn the Raiders into a competitive bunch.

“I knew I was signing a deal that was less than maybe what a guy with nine years of head-coaching experience would deserve,” Del Rio said. “But there’s one thing about…throughout life, many moments where you find the ability to humble yourself and just keep your head down and keep working hard, that side of it usually takes care of itself.

“To me, it’s about being involved in something you have passion for and putting forth the energy and the effort and not being about the money. In the end, the money comes, but the reason I coach is I love to impact young men. I love to teach and inspire and motivate and help them be their best as players and even off the field. So I love what I do. It made it a no-brainer for me.”

Del Rio’s new deal didn’t come because the Raiders won a certain amount. It was an acknowledgement that Del Rio had established a winning culture. He helped the Raiders return to relevance, and Davis rewarded him with a new deal as promised.

“It was more like when you do the things I know you’re going to do, we’ll take care of the contract,” Del Rio said. “So when it came to signing free agents over the last couple of years, when it came to doing the facility upgrades, he’s been a man of word throughout the whole process.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off, one scheduled earlier in the day. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.”

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”