Will The Raiders Ever Repair Their Image?
There is nothing that makes you think more about Raider football than the sound of John Facenda and the “Autumn Wind.” But everything in Raider Land is not as easy as drawing comparisons to the team’s success in the 1970s. New head coach Jack Del Rio knows this all too well as he comes to a team that has not been in the playoffs since 2002 and has not been at .500 since three seasons ago.
There is plenty of work to be done, but the cupboard is not completely bare as Derek Carr had a solid rookie season behind center and the defense had rookie Khalil Mack to give the franchise hope things will be getting just a bit better.
And it should. But Del Rio must first find what he has on offense and to teach his defensive unit to pick up exactly where he left off in Denver.
"I've been a Raider fan all my life," Del Rio said. "That's not the main reason I came back. I was blessed with this opportunity and agreed to take this job because of a lot of factors. It starts with knowing there is good leadership in place that I believe I can work with, that we can build this team."
Del Rio was one of about a dozen candidates interviewed for the coaching vacancy by team owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie. That list was quickly whittled down to two finalists -- Del Rio and former interim coach Tony Sparano -- before the decision was made to go with Del Rio.
Davis, who took a backseat in the hiring process three years ago shortly after the death of his father, Al Davis, was much more involved this time around. He flew to Denver and held a one-on-one meeting with Del Rio during the wild-card week of the playoffs when the Broncos had a bye.
Del Rio’s fiery personality should fit well with the bay area. He was a linebacker in the NFL and has been a defensive coach since leaving the game. In his time in Jacksonville, the Jaguars’ defensive units were among the top half of the league.
Oakland finished 3-13 in 2014 after an 0-10 start and owns the fourth overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
"This is an organization that has been an excellent organization for a number of years, and it's fallen on some hard times recently, but the foundation is in place for us to be great again," Del Rio said. "It's up to us. I want to empower the players in the locker room to be accountable to be able to step forward, to take the team, to take the torch and to build this thing great again. We've got a lot of work to do and I'm excited to be here and excited to get started."
Del Rio, who signed a four-year contract with Oakland, smiled as he talked about sitting in the stands as a youth watching Raiders games at the Coliseum with his father. His parents bought season tickets when the team relocated from Los Angeles in 1995, and continue to attend games every year.
Can his love of the team and the area be a godsend for a revival with the franchise? Management hopes so. There are issues at running back, the defense itself and the culture of the organization that has not won of late. Maybe memories of watching a winning franchise in his younger days will help more than he knows.