Opinions? Yeah, the first quarterback in franchise history and the only coach to win two Super Bowls for the Raiders has some.But as a team radio broadcaster and long-time confidante of the late Al Davis, Tom Flores has mostly kept his thoughts to himself. But in a wide-ranging interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio's "The End Zone" show this weekend, Flores did broach several topics.He said, "Time will tell whether that was a good trade or not," in regards to the deal brokered by Hue Jackson and OK'd by Mark Davis that landed the Raiders Carson Palmer in exchange for a first-round draft pick as well as a conditional second-rounder.Flores was also asked how his Raiders teams were able to overcome penalties to win games while the more recent vintage teams could not, especially last year's team that set league records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards."We were always good enough to win," Flores said. "We had good enough players to win, overcome the penalties, overcome the turnovers, but they're not good enough to do that right now and they've got to have a little bit more discipline and I think, in my opinion, they've got to have better linebacker play."Which, of course, led to some pointed criticism of middle linebacker Rolando McClain."I think he was a disappointment last year," Flores said of McClain. "One play he'll look like an All-Pro and then the other play he'll look just like an average guy. And then the fiasco when he went home for an occasion, that didn't go over too well. But he's got to prove himself still, in my opinion. He hasn't lived up to expectations so I think there's still some speculation there."In this corner, Flores deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for the trails he blazed in the NFL as a player, coach and general manager. Following then, some Canton-worthy thoughts of Flores on several other Raiders-related topicsOn the upcoming division race: "I think it's exciting, I think it's a good time to be in the AFC West because I think the whole thing is up for grabs. I don't think there's any team that you're going to say right now is going to dominate the division."On Oakland's chances in the AFC West: "The Raiders have a very young team. Very fast but very young, and they need to grow uplast year, there were about two or three games they dominated for three quarters and then lose it in the fourth and that kept them out of the playoffs."On a certain high-priced defensive back the Raiders cut this offseason: "They got rid of Stanford Routt. Whether that's a good thing or not? He made plays, and then he made plays for the other team with all the pass interference calls that he had. He led the league in pass interference."On the recent reunionlife celebration held in Las Vegas for Al Davis that was attended by 300 people: "A great final standoff to somebody that I was with for many, many yearssome warm and fuzzy (stories), some not so warm and fuzzy. But you know the old saying Whatever happens in Vegas stays there? Some of the stories we better leave them there."On the Raiders' biggest weakness on defense: "I think most of it came from the linebacker position. I think the defensive line is pretty solid(Aaron) Curry, I think, came on well last year. That was a good acquisition when they got him from Seattle. He's the only one right now I'm feeling pretty good about. The rest of them all have to rise, or somebody has to rise to the occasion on the other two positions. And then a lot of it depends on what they're going to try to play. Their outside linebackers last year, most of them with the exception of Curry, were pass rushers, instead of linebackers."On the ongoing regime change in Oakland with new general manager Reggie McKenzie, who played linebacker for Flores: "I like it right now, I sure do. He's had to come in and change (things). The team was not caught in time, but as long as Al Davis was alive and running the show it could be run the way it was run. But now with him gone, they've got to go to the next level or the next generation, the next era, I should say, and Reggie will bring some experience that he gained under Ron Wolff in Green Bay and on his own in Green Bay, pretty good solid organization. So it's going to be a different style."
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.”
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.”