Raiders

Players shoulder the blame after Raiders fire Jack Del Rio

Players shoulder the blame after Raiders fire Jack Del Rio

CARSON – Quarterback Derek Carr sat by his locker, still absorbing Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the L.A. Chargers when a teammate showed him his phone.

The screen delivered unwelcome news. Head coach Jack Del Rio had been fired.

Owner Mark Davis informed Del Rio of the decision right after the regular-season finale, a swift action to blow out the coaching staff after a disastrous 6-10 campaign.

Del Rio broke the news himself in a postgame press conference he didn’t have to attend, at which point word spread fast across the internet. Far quicker, it seems than in the Raiders locker room.

Several players didn’t know about Davis’ decision until media entered the locker room, leaving many surprised by the move. Few wanted to address it right away.

Captain Khalil Mack left without addressing the press. Derek Carr did his best in a postgame press conference.

“We weren’t good enough for him,” Carr said. “We have to take ownership of that as players. We’re angry that we let it get to that. We understand the business part of it. Our job is to come back better and hungry. We’ve been through some hard times together, and this is right up with the tough moments. There’s nothing you can do about it now, though the wound is still fresh, but it’ll scar over. It hurts, but you have to move on.”

Players who spoke were surprised that a person they generally cared for was dismissed, and shared some responsibility for his firing.

“We didn’t see this coming,” Carr said. “We were already talking about things we needed to fix to get this thing right. We were getting ready for what’s next. For it to just be done, that’s just crazy.”

Del Rio addressed the team before being formally let go, but not after. Then he met wit Davis, announced his own firing and eventually met with Carr and Mack after news broke.

“This is our team. There’s no secret about that,” Carr said. “It’s Khalil’s and my team, and went in and hugged him, told him we loved him. He’s a man’s man. When it was hard, he stood in there and talked to us. We’re a family that needs to be better together.”

This family has some bonding to do after cracks formed inside the Raiders complex. While players publicly supported Del Rio on Sunday and throughout the year, it's naive to think everyone in the locker room loved him. Some seemed shellshocked by the news. Quite a few, however, didn't seem to care. 

Falling below expectation comes with a price, and fingers started pointing at the coaching staff when the wheels came. Firing defensive coordinator Ken Norton during the season was met with furrowed brows, and upset several team leaders, but there were problems well before that. Bringing Todd Downing on and allowing Bill Musgrave to walk also irked some after it became obvious the move had backfired. Del Rio had his supporters, but not everyone will be sad to see him leave. 

The Raiders will now look to get back on track following an off year, now working under a new coaching staff.

Carr wouldn’t speculate about the prospect of having Jon Gruden as his new head coach – it seems likely the former Raiders coach will again don silver and black – but promised the next staff will inherit a talented and motivated roster.

“We have a bunch of dogs,” Carr said. “I think anyone would tell you that. The guy who comes in next will have a bunch of angry dudes who just want to fight and compete their tail off. That’s where we go from here.”

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

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AP

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per overthecap.com, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.

PROS

-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.

CONS

-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

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AP

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

Jon Gruden isn’t the only Raiders head coach returning to the Silver and Black.

Tom Cable’s on the way, albeit in a lesser role. Gruden already has the top job. Cable’s coming back, NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon, as offensive line coach.

He occupied that role in Oakland from 2007 until he assumed the head coach role when Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2008 season. The interim tag was lifted in 2009, and he coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2010.

He followed that feat with the now famous quote, “We’re not losers anymore.” The Raiders had seven straight losing seasons before finishing .500 in what would be Cable’s last season with the club. He was 17-27 in two-plus seasons as Raiders head coach.

He went to Seattle after that, and spent seven seasons as Seahawks assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line. He also worked extensively with Marshawn Lynch during the rusher’s salad days in Seattle.

Cable returning to the Raiders seemed highly unlikely after late owner Al Davis detailed Cable’s misgivings in a post-firing press conference. Cable was allegedly involved in a 2009 incident where then Raiders assistant Randy Hanson was left with a broken jaw. ESPN also aired a report where three women accused Cable of domestic violence. One of Cable’s accusers sued Cable and named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis docked Cable’s pay in relation to that litigation.

Cable is a respected position coach, though the Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. He and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were fired after a disappointing season where the Seahawks missed the postseason.

Offensive line coach was a top priority as Gruden built a staff. Cable is known for using a zone blocking scheme, though it remains uncertain what he’ll use in Oakland with a powerful, expensive offensive front locked in place save the right tackle spot.