Jack Del Rio taking emotion out of return to Jacksonville

Jack Del Rio taking emotion out of return to Jacksonville

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was in Jacksonville longer than any stop in his athletic career. Del Rio the football player was never in one place longer than four seasons. He was Jaguars head coach for nearly nine years, a position he held for most of his 40s.

Del Rio considers it a time of tremendous growth, especially in his current profession.

Sunday’s game will be his first in Jacksonville since he was let go, though Del Rio says emotion won’t overpower.

“I’ve been in this league a long time, so I’ve gone back to a few places before. It’s not the first time going back to places where I’ve been,” Del Rio said Wednesday. “I think I’ll be okay.”

Del Rio had good times and bad in Jacksonville. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances. The Jaguars have been terrible since he was fired following a 3-8 start to 2011.

Things didn’t ended well for Del Rio in Jacksonville. When a head coach moves on, they rarely do.

Del Rio holds no ill will towards the Jaguars. He’s thankful former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver gave him the opportunity to become a first time head coach.

Weaver wanted someone with head coaching experience to replace Tom Coughlin. Del Rio won him over in the interview.

"I saw a bright light, a bright eye . . . a guy who was very organized, very detailed and full of confidence," Weaver said in 2003, via the Florida Times-Union.

Del Rio overcame a lack of experience with preparation. He brought a book full of plans for what he would do as Jaguars head coach, a comprehensive overview of how to bring Jacksonville back to prominence.

"Jack brought in a book this thick," Weaver said, holding his hands about 6 inches apart, via the Florida Times-Union. "It had every process, from building a staff to evaluating the roster to offseason conditioning, free agency, the draft, training camp . . . all of it."

Del Rio still has that book. It contains great information learned from mentors Brian Billick and John Fox while preparing to be a head coach.

“I credit Brian a lot for that organizational structure that I had and then John Fox,” Del Rio said. “He was the one that introduced me to putting all of that information into the book and rather than being power point or something because you’d be able to have that face to face with the owner.”

Experience has taught Del Rio so much more since then. He believes he’s a better head coach than he was before, especially reflection during three seasons as Denver defensive coordinator.

Del Rio comes back to Jacksonville leading a a 4-2 Raiders team on the rise. He’s found that there are some things not in the book.

“When you first get an opportunity to sit in this head coach seat, the amount of volume that you have to deal with, the decisions that you have to make, I don’t know that you’re really prepared for it until you get in there and start doing it,” Del Rio said. “I’ve gained an incredible amount of insight into what it takes in this profession. I feel much more prepared, obviously, having nine years of experience there and four games in Denver as the interim (head coach) and a year and a half here.

“Certainly, that experience, being in that chair and making decisions, running the staff, running the team, organizing practice, the way you travel, all the things that we do that lead up, the process that I talk about, the process of being a good team, all of it entails really, it starts with the head coach.”

Del Rio will be the opposing head coach on Sunday, and believes he’ll be received as all opponents are. That could bring some boos. He’ll be fine with it. There are few who know Del Rio then and now, though Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson is one.

The former Jaguar wouldn’t compare Del Rio's past and present, but said he wants to win in Del Rio’s return.

“It’s going to be exciting for him,” Nelson said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll put on a show. We know what’s at stake. It’s going to be a good game.”

Raiders' trio of rookie defensive linemen bright spots in dark season


Raiders' trio of rookie defensive linemen bright spots in dark season

ALAMEDA – Arden Key took a long road to the quarterback. The Raiders' rookie edge rusher used bend, athleticism and some quality hand fighting to get around the Seattle Seahawks' right tackle and into the pocket. Russell Wilson was rolling away from Key, but the LSU product closed quickly and sacked a quarterback for the first time as a professional.

Veteran Bruce Irvin approached his protégé and said but a few words.

“About damn time.”

Key had been close several times over five games, but hadn’t finished the job. He finally got home in his best pass-rushing effort to date, with a sack and four pressures during an otherwise bleak 27-3 loss to Seattle.

Results matter more than the plays creating them, so Key won’t revel in a job well done. But, let’s be honest here. The Raiders are clearly playing the long game. These 2018 season results don’t matter much in their grand scheme.

Coaches are striving to foster young talent where available, and use veterans to patch other areas of weakness in an attempt to remain competitive on Sundays.

The Raiders are prominently playing three drafted rookie defensive lineman, whose development has been a rare bright spot during a dark time.

Fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst has been the best and most consistent. Key is getting more efficient as a pass rusher, and last week was given more opportunities to play against the run. Second-round interior lineman P.J. Hall was slowed by an ankle sprain – it cost him two games – but is slowly starting to make an impact.

Most rookies aren’t asked to play so much so quickly, but the Raiders don’t have a choice. They’re thin up front, especially after Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears. Hurst, Hall and Key haven’t set the world on fire – the Raiders' pass rush ranks among the league’s worst – but they learning and developing on the fly.

“It’s hard on them. It’s hard on them,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “These are three rookie players. I don’t know if there are three rookie D-Lineman or two rookie tackles playing this much on any other teams. Physically, it’s a challenge. They’re going up against full grown men in their fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth years. They’re in the trenches. They’re seeing schemes and combination blocks that are difficult to deal with.

"I thought Hurst did a good job of recognizing the traps. I thought he got off blocks. I saw Key get his first sack. I thought P.J. Hall was finally flying around again like he was in training camp. I think they’ll continue to get better. I know they have to prove that.”

There’s a connection between Key, Hurst and Hall, who have grown close through this shared experience. They root for each other and help each other technically where applicable. They know that they’ll play together for the next few seasons at least, and want to develop and comprise a formidable defensive front.

“We definitely have a bond,” Hall said. “We know we’re going to be here for a while, which is good because we enjoy playing together. I feel like we’re trying to build chemistry and hopefully that will help us all play better as we move forward.

Marshawn Lynch's actual groin is big kick to Raiders' metaphoric one


Marshawn Lynch's actual groin is big kick to Raiders' metaphoric one

Marshawn Lynch’s injured groin tells us yet again that the Oakland Raiders now exist largely to torture every plan Mark Davis ever had for looking good for the homies before abandoning them.
Oh, there are other reasons why Lynch’s injury, which will cost him at least a month and perhaps the remainder of this obliterated season, is bad, starting with the effect it will have on Lynch. His rep as the Raiders’ indomitable man has been part of his defining greatness, so to lose time on the back of his career is unpleasant at best.
His time in the NFL is believed to be short anyway, given the fact that he came back from his retirement to play before the home town, so this sucks first and foremost for him.
It is also bad for the Raiders, who cannot rely on their passing game to save them from their collective fate. Lynch, when used, was their most reliable attack engine at a time when most teams living off a 65-35 pass-to-run ratio, which may help explain why they are 1-5 and in full earth-boring plummet.
Even those who believe in the possibility of salvaging something for the season and were hoping for good things to come from their next four games (Colts/49ers/Chargers/Cardinals) have been dealt a swift kick to the nethers that will last the rest of the season – to go along with all the others.
But we should not forget the underlying damage that comes to Davis given that he has done only three things since taking control of the franchise that his dissipating fan base has been universally pleased with – paying big money to keep Derek Carr, signing Lynch, and giving the run of the house to Jon Gruden.
Carr has lost a good deal of shine by getting injured and then deviating from his track of quarterback elite-hood by throwing more often to the people in the other shirts. Gruden spent all his good will in eight months, with the defining blow being the Khalil Mack trade. Lynch was the local hero with the titanium skeletal structure, and now that’s gone with a single damaging MRI.
And so the undoing of this season is as complete as that of the 49ers, who lost their expensive running back option (Jerick McKinnon) in training camp, their franchise face (Jimmy Garoppolo) in Week 3 and their belief that good times had finally returned. Now they, like the Raiders, are 1-5, and headed for a joint season of failure as catastrophic as those in the 2000s, when they won 44 of 160 games between 2003 and 2008.
It seems almost targeted by a particularly malignant force who likes betting against the local teams – although handy tips here include betting the 49ers to cover the total each week, and fading the Raiders on the money line.
Hey, we’re all about hope here.
But if your fandom is purer and more nobler than mere monetary considerations, then the Lynch news is nearly catastrophic. He was the most fun part of watching the Raiders this year, and if Sunday’s loss in London was his last game of the season, it could be his last game as a Raider, and if that is so, he deserved a better sendoff, and so did you. 
Mark Davis? Well, that’s another story. He is now winless in his three biggest attempts to seem like he was on top of this football ownership thing, and today, he could not look worse.
Then again, it’s still early. I mean, Nevada could be closed for renovations, right?