After leading his team to a 12-4 record in 2016, Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio should win the AP NFL Coach of the Year award.
No one currently in the Oakland Raiders organization has personified the Al Davis mantra of “Just Win Baby” more than Jack Del Rio — who returned to where it all started as a child growing up in Hayward, California, when Reggie McKenzie hired him to be the 19th head coach of the Silver and Black.
In just two seasons with Del Rio at the helm, the Raiders have returned to relevance — a monumental consider the recent history of the franchise. A feat that should result in Del Rio being named the Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.
Article continues below ...
By looking at the numbers, especially defensively, of course you can say “there’s no way Del Rio can be the coach of the year!” but you have to look past metrics on this one because of the relatively short and significant turnaround that Del Rio has achieved.
Even though this season ended under unfortunate circumstances, thanks to the strong showing the team displayed in 2016, Oakland will be considered Super Bowl contenders heading into the 2017 season. Much of the credit for that goes to Del Rio, who after countless coaches promised to “change the culture” of this franchise, he finally has done it.
The moment Jack Del Rio stepped into his role as head coach, he knew that things would be a little rocky in the early days — evident by the 7-9 record in his first year. But Del Rio was thrilled with the foundation that was in place, and knew it was only a matter of time before the Raiders would be back.
“I think it starts with doing things that would make Raider Nation proud.”
Earlier I mentioned one of the few glaring arguments against Del Rio’s candidacy was the play of the defense. Now it can be argued for hours on just how much exactly Del Rio was to blame for the shortcomings on that side of the ball and how much should fall on the shoulders of Ken Norton Jr., but the last few weeks of the season it was obvious the defense was finally coming together.
The offensive numbers represent a journey that took almost three years to assemble and bear fruit, and while we are still waiting on the defense, everyone must be reminded of the turnover the defense had this year in terms of personnel, and realistically that it might be another year from them playing up to expectation.
In the defensive lapses, though, we see the beauty of what Del Rio accomplished this season and what it is that above all else sets him apart — he has changed the culture of this team. A culture that had seen the Raiders become the doormat of the NFL and a laughing-stock with no respect and less credibility.
Think back to all the close wins that were called “lucky” by critics, and in particular, the New Orleans game where Del Rio went for it on fourth down, and then when he went for the win on the two-point conversion. That moment and win signified this was a new team with a new identity.
Under Del Rio’s leadership, the Raiders had an offensive line with three Pro Bowlers, two wide receivers with 1,000-plus receiving yards, and an MVP caliber Quarterback.
Was this because of talent? Yes it was, but even the greatest talent can be wasted without any leadership, without any direction; and the Raiders undoubtedly had it this year.