Colin BechtCSNBayArea.comThe Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority gave approval to the Anschutz Entertainment Group to operate the stadium for the next five years.The agreement, reported by the Contra Costa Times, will inject millions of dollars into the Coliseum, potentially renovating the 45-year-old stadium in much needed ways. Although this seems to be a good deal for the inhabitants of the Coliseum and, by extension, the fans of those teams, it comes with one caveat. In addition to now holding a vested interest in the Coliseum, as well as several other stadiums and sports franchises, AEG is also working with the NFL on building a football stadium in Los Angeles. That project has led to concerns that AEG might try to poach the Raiders out of the Coliseum and into a new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Los Angeles. Asked directly by Coliseum authority commissioner Nate Miley if AEG intended "to try to poach our teams," AEG facility chief Chris Wright said, "Absolutely not." AEG will make at least 3 million in the agreement to operarate the Coliseum and would have to pay back at least 6 million if moved the Raiders, A's or Warriors. The Coliseum authority also included provisions that limit AEG from persuading any team to move to a city within 50 miles of Oakland, but antitrust laws halt provisions preventing any move altogether."We're trying to get something done up here, but if we can't, we've got to get something done somewhere because we need to be able to compete," Raiders owner Mark Davis said in January. "Los Angeles is a possibility." AEG has unveiled plans for a 1.7-million-square-foot football stadium next to the Staples Center and plans to invest 1 billion into the project if it can convince an NFL team to move to Los Angeles. The stadium already has a corporate sponsor and would be named Farmers Field. AEG's plan has come under scrutiny by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl over what he said was a lack of specifics on the proposed stadium's environmental impact. L.A. has not had an NFL team since 1995 when the Raiders and the Rams both left. Colin Becht is an intern with CSNBayArea.com and a senior at Northwestern University
ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was twice asked about making in-season changes at his Monday press conference.
He wouldn’t rule it out. Del Rio said he would do anything necessary to help the team “win now,” and later said "we're not getting into staff questions this week."
Then he fired Ken Norton Jr. the next day, hoping the dismissal will provide a spark.
It might. More likely, it might not do enough.
It is a shot across the bow, a signal that subpar play won't be tolerated.
“We played under our talent level,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, “Those things come with consequences.”
New play caller John Pagano has a unique style in that he knows how to bring creative and/or well-disguised pressure and exploit weak links, but he won’t be using his system. He’ll still be working within Norton/Del Rio’s existing scheme and, more importantly, he’s still playing chess with existing, often inferior pieces. The Raiders understand that, and likely won't judge him on this final stretch alone.
Why? The defense doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary, the interior defensive line or the inside linebacker corps. That’s not on Norton or Pagano.
Pagano can’t do a thing about an offense struggling mightily to catch passes, block consistently and let plays develop downfield.
The Raiders have some major talent problems, with rush and coverage rarely working together as desired. That, and some uninspired schematics, have produced awful statistics.
The Raiders don’t have an interception, and are the first team to go 10 games without a pick. They’re on track to have the second-worst opposing completion percentage (72.3) and passer rating (113.3) in NFL history, per the Associated Press.
They’re also last in sacks for the second straight year, with just 14 this season despite having reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.
They're thin because last year's second and third round picks, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun aren't contributing. This year's draft class had to make an immediate impact, but Gareon Conley played two games, Obi Melifonwu spent eight games on IR and Eddie Vanderdoes as underwhelmed after a promising start.
Highly paid free agents haven't performed well enough, and many could be shown the door.
It’s possible roughly half of the starting lineup doesn’t return next season, with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and NaVorro Bowman likely out the door as free agents or roster cuts.
In sum, this isn’t all Norton’s fault.
He was, however, the easiest cut. You can’t fire players en masse during the year, and Pagano was an easy replacement without disrupting the position coaches. Pagano has extensive experience calling plays. He was the then-San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012-16.
Norton wasn’t an innovative play caller. He was passed over for coordinator jobs while serving as Seattle’s linebackers coach, after Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were hired as head coaches. Del Rio, who played with Norton in Dallas back from 1989-91, hired Norton shortly after being hired by the Raiders.
The Raiders' defense has never been good under Norton/Del Rio, and Norton was on a hot seat most of last season. It was surprising when Pagano was hired that Norton was retained and allowed to continue despite underwhelming performance.
Norton was immensely popular in the locker room, especially with members of the front seven. Mack and Irvin in particular were Norton guys. Norton and Irvin go way back to Irvin’s Seattle days, where the coach helped players get and stay on the right path.
That’s why this firing was deeply felt on Tuesday. The players were told in a Tuesday meeting, following a walk-through focused on corrections from Sunday’s New England loss.
"The axe came down on everybody," free safety Reggie Nelson said. "Everybody felt it in this building. Players, we love Norton, regardless. Unfortunately, the production wasn't a high standard this year and it's a production league. He's not playing. We are.”
The Raiders are 4-6, and can’t afford to lose many more games. They might need to be perfect down the stretch. That’s a tough ask for a team that’s been woefully inconsistent on both sides. This team was always expected to shoot for the middle and have a potentially great offense score points by the bushel.
The offense has been disappointing, performing far below its pay grade and talent level. There was no movement on that side of the ball. The Raiders hope, with fingers firmly crossed, this change provide the spark necessary to create turnovers and quarterback pressure than has been lacking in a disastrous season to this point.
Ken Norton Jr.'s time with the Raiders is up.
With the team underperforming, Oakland has fired Norton as the defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. John Pagano will handle the play calling duties when the Raiders take on the Broncos this Sunday.
Head coach Jack Del Rio issued the following statement regarding the news:
“After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator. I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”
The Raiders defense under Norton this season ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allow per game (367.0), is allowing 24.7 points per game and has yet to record an interception through 10 games.
"We played under our talent level. Those things come with consequences," defensive lineman Justin Ellis told reporters shortly after the news broke.
"The axe fell on all of us. We love Coach Norton. We didn’t want to see this happen," safety Reggie Nelson said.
Norton joined Del Rio's staff prior to the 2015 season.