Del Rio rewarded by Raiders after betting on himself

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INDIANAPOLIS — When the Oakland Raiders hired Jack Del Rio in January 2015, they did so with the hope that his defensive acumen and wealth of head coaching experience could help turn around a struggling franchise — and apparently also with the understanding that Del Rio would be rewarded handsomely if he did.

Del Rio held up his end of the bargain in 2016, leading Oakland to 12 wins — one more than the three seasons prior to his arrival, combined — and its first playoff appearance since 2002. And a few weeks later, the team responded in kind, inking the head coach to a four-year extension in February that’ll keep him with the club until at least 2020.

On Thursday at the NFL Combine, Del Rio addressed his new deal and, without being asked, praised Raiders owner Mark Davis, not only for his investment in his head coach, but his commitment to the franchise as a whole.

“That was just more M.D. following through and being a man of his word,” Del Rio said. “When we talked about the vision that I had for the franchise and the possibility of me joining him as his head coach, there were several things that I laid out that I thought were imperative — facility upgrades and things like this. And he’s been very, very generous and supportive.”

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However, Del Rio also gave a degree of credit to himself — not so much for any specific move he’s made on the field or in the film room, but rather, for his overwhelming belief that he would get the job done.

“I bet on me on the contract,” Del Rio said of his original deal. “It wasn’t a very good contract to start with. But it was an opportunity and I bet on our ability to get this thing turned around, and I feel like we have.”

The team did not release the details of Del Rio’s initial deal and have not done so with the new one either, but the impression, based on Del Rio’s own statements, is that the first agreement was for well below market value.

“I knew I was signing a deal that was less than maybe what a guy with nine years of head coaching experience would deserve,” Del Rio said. “But throughout life, (there are) many moments where you find the ability to humble yourself and (if you) just keep your head down and keep working hard, then that side of it usually takes care of itself.”

Now that he’s finally gotten what one presumes to be a big payday, the pressure is on for Del Rio to raise the bar again. But just like the first time around, he says his focus won’t be on proving he’s worth what his contract pays.

“It’s about being involved in something that you have passion for and putting forth the energy and effort and not being about the money,” Del Rio said. “I think in the end the money comes, but the reason I coach — I love to impact young men. I love to teach and inspire and motivate and help them be the best, as players and even off the field. I love what I do, so it made it a no-brainer for me.

“We need to recognize that we’re just getting started,” Del Rio added of the team’s progress. “We have so much work to do. We have a really solid nucleus of young talent, and we need to continue to grow that base of talent and continue to develop it.”

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