Jack Del Rio is an NFL fan. That was the case 32 years ago, before beginning his career as a professional player and then coach.
His love for the league was fostered at Oakland Coliseum, cheering for his hometown Raiders. The job hasn’t changed things. Not one bit.
The Raiders have a bye this week, but their head coach will carve time to watch Sunday’s slate. As it was decades ago, Del Rio has a rooting interest.
He has always wanted the Raiders to succeed while rivals struggle. Now he needs that to happen.
Del Rio’s team is 4-5 heading into a Week 11 showdown with New England in Mexico City, with an uphill climb remaining to be a legitimate contender.
Del Rio could use a combination of Raiders wins and favorable results, which is what happened Sunday. The Chiefs, Broncos, Ravens and Bills lost. The Silver and Black beat Miami, and jumped from 14th to ninth in conference. They’re 1.5 games back of a wild card spot and two games behind Kansas City in the AFC West.
While adjacent results don’t matter if the Raiders lose too often, Del Rio admits to watching scoreboards even with so much football left.
“You can’t help but look. I mean if you’re a fan… Heck, I’m looking all the time,” Del Rio said Monday. “That’s just the fan aspect, but the professional aspect, we have to just focus on the process of what goes into playing really well, understanding your assignment, being accountable, doing your job, basic stuff. And that’s what we want to keep the focus of our attention.”
The Raiders focused inward during their bye and got ahead on their preparation for an excellent Patriots squad. But…since they can’t add to their win column this weekend, they wouldn’t mind having Buffalo and the New York Jets lose. A tie between the Jaguars and Chargers would be ideal. Having New England beat Denver wouldn’t hurt either.
That would be quite a parlay. No matter what happens, what will near future results mean?
“We’ll find out at the end,” Del Rio said. “We’ll find out at the end. For us, just keep stacking wins and find a way to win the next one and we have a tough challenge going against the Patriots.”
The Raiders face a brutal schedule, with the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles highlighting the slate. The home stretch wouldn’t feel so daunting had the Raiders made hay early. Instead they lost to beatable teams and fell behind the back.
No one in the Raiders organization thought they’d had to watch scoreboards. That’s a chaser’s activity. Frontrunners are overwhelmingly concerned with their own results.
The Raiders hope to find consistency in all phases and go on a run.
"We need to get better on defense. We need to get better on offense and special teams,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “We have to improve. Our record is what it is, but we’re right in the thick of it. We have to worry about winning the next game. We’ve got to figure that out."
That has to happen in a hurry. They have to go 6-1 in remaining games to hit their target record.
“It’s been my experience in this league that you typically have to get to 10 and that doesn’t always get it done,” Del Rio said. “I think this year is one of those years where it’s very competitive throughout the league. I don’t know that there’s one team that’s so dominant that everybody shudders at the thought of playing them. I think there are a lot of good teams, and a lot of very capable teams. It’s a matter of going out and executing well and playing good football and finding a way to win on Sunday.
“The bottom line is you keep playing. Keep improving. You want to get hot at the right time. For us, there’s no time like the present to get hot.”