The Oakland Raiders fired head coach Jack Del Rio shortly after their regular season finale to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, leading to increased speculation that Jon Gruden will be returning to lead this franchise.
Jack Del Rio Firing Likely Paves the Way for Jon Gruden
While Del Rio losing his job didn’t surprise many, the timing did, as owner Mark Davis fired Del Rio while he was on his way to the locker room immediately after the game. Del Rio then had an awkward and emotional post game press conference with the media where he addressed his dismissal. “I spoke with [owner] Mark Davis after the game and Mark let me know that he’s not going to be bringing me back. He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to kind of get this program going the right direction, but that he felt the need to change. I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me and I mean that. I’m very grateful. My childhood team. But, it’s a results business. I understand that.”
If there was any doubt regarding Del Rio’s future with the team, the showing against the Chargers erased it. For the first time this season it seemed Del Rio had lost the team as the effort just wasn’t what it was in previous weeks. The offense again was abysmal, and the defense under John Pagano, going against really it’s first quality quarterback in Philip Rivers, struggled mightily, allowing Rivers to throw for 387 yards with three touchdowns, and giving up 117 yards rushing.
Del Rio handled the press conference on Sunday with class. He brought respectability back to the franchise, and earned the team’s first playoff berth since 2002. He changed the culture in the locker room and brought excitement to a starving fan base. His tenure with Oakland was a success, but failure to correct a struggling offense this year proved fatal.
All signs now point to the Raiders luring Jon Gruden from ESPN, with a rumored five-year, $50 million contract and possible part ownership of the team. Gruden already has been getting together his coaching staff with former Raider Rich Gannon joining him as quarterback coach, Jets offensive coordinator John Morton who would assume the same role under Gruden, former Raiders head coach Bill Callahan as offensive line coach, and either Gus Bradley or Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator. It seems all that needs to happen before Gruden’s hiring is made official is the satisfaction of the Rooney rule and Gruden calling the NFL playoff game for ESPN this coming weekend. Expect an announcement early next week.
In hindsight, we should have known that this was going to be a tough year for the Raiders. From the announcement that the team would be relocating to Las Vegas, to first round pick Gareon Conley’s legal issues, Donald Penn’s holdout, letting Bill Musgrave go and handing a powerful offense to a rookie offensive coordinator in Todd Downing, and Derek Carr’s broken back, there certainly were enough distractions to overcome.
The result was a final record of 6-10 and a coaching change. If the rumors are accurate, it will be up to Gruden to recapture the magic which led to a 12-4 record last year. Many changes are expected over the next few weeks, and Raider Nation can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.