Raiders tap Jack Del Rio as new head coach

ALAMEDA — The ink has dried and the Raiders have their man.

Jack Del Rio has been tapped as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders, a man with lots of experience on both sides of the white stripe.

His NFL coaching has been a good one — head coach of the Jaguars from 2003 to 2011, who he led to three playoff appearances while competing against the Peyton Manning led Colts, and then as Denver Broncos defensive coordinator until yesterday.

As a player, Del Rio had an 11-year career with four teams including Dallas and Minnesota. Del Rio was born in Castro Valley and played for Hayward High before becoming an All-American linebacker at USC.

Under Del Rio at Denver, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. flourished from undrafted rookie to the best defensive back in the league, and linebacker Von Miller has become a perennial All-Pro.

If Del Rio can do the same for the Raiders’ young defensive talent, Oakland stands a chance at being one of the best units in the league, certainly in the AFC West.

With the Jaguars, Del Rio had two playoff quarterbacks in David Garrard and Byron Leftwich, neither particularly talented. Maurice Jones-Drew also played his best football under Del Rio despite a mediocre at best supporting cast.

Del Rio’s tenure with the Jags ended with his firing during Week 12 of 2011, with a disastrous 3-8 behind him. Del Rio’s final record with Jacksonville was 68-71, though he faced stiff division competition and the team never had a true stud past Jones-Drew.

Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton tweeted his support for Del Rio and predicted an upswing for Oakland:

link: https://twitter.com/MrKnighton2u/status/555430906752561153

Del Rio’s longstanding success in the NFL also brings relationships with coveted coaches.

Mike Smith, his defensive coordinator with Jacksonville and recently fired head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, has become a top candidate to replace Jason Tarver as defensive coordinator.

Tarver’s contract expired Tuesday, and the Raiders had no plans to retain him.

Del Rio could also add another face that should have Raiders fans chomping at the bit: former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman.

Trestman was able to create a high-flying offense in Chicago, with a myriad of pieces and a quarterback of whom several players in the Bears’ locker room grew weary, Jay Cutler.

Few offensive minds in the league are more respected that Trestman, and there’d be a near certainty he could create a similar offense in Oakland to the one he built with the Bears.

Beyond his connections and experience, Del Rio could bolster a case for priority free agents to come to Oakland.

The Broncos have a few, such as Knighton, and if he lands top coordinators, there’s few reasons to believe that the Raiders can’t hit numerous free agency home runs.

The Raiders are expected to schedule a press conference for Thursday afternoon to officially introduce Del Rio.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.