AFC West: Oakland Raiders

As another New England Patriots controversy captivates the NFL -- this time it's deflated footballs -- an old Super Bowl tale has surfaced and it involves your Oakland Raiders.

Brad Johnson, who quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 48-21 thrashing over the Raiders in the Super Bowl XXXVII 12 years ago, said he paid some people to scuff all the bowls prior to the game so they would become easier to handle.

"I paid some guys off to get the balls right," Johnson said. "I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them."

Do I think the Raiders got hosed? No. The key here is all of the footballs were affected. Johnson's act made it easier for players on both sides. There's a "nothing to see (or feel) here" type situation. On his Sirius XM radio show, the Raiders quarterback that day, Rich Gannon, addressed it as a non-story.

The Raiders know they were trounced, pristine footballs or not.
The Oakland Raiders – who were ranked 32nd in the NFL in total offense in 2014 – had two former assistant coaches become offensive coordinators elsewhere in the league in the last two days.

The Cleveland Browns hired Oakland quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator Wednesday. He is credited for helping quickly develop rookie quarterback Derek Carr in 2014. DeFilippo has a good reputation around the league and there was other interest.

He was no longer under contract with the Raiders, who will hire another quarterbacks coach.

On Tuesday, former Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson was hired as the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee is reporting that the San Francisco 49ers are considering adding former Oakland interim head coach Tony Sparano to their staff. Like Olson, there was no chance Sparano was going to be kept on the staff of new Oakland coach Jack Del Rio.

Del Rio has hired assistants Bill Musgrave (offensive coordinator), Mike Tice (offensive line) and Brad Seely (special teams). He is interviewing Mike Smith and Eric Mangini for the defensive coordinator position, with Wade Phillips and Mel Tucker remaining potential options.
As the Oakland Raiders secured a top-level special teams coach, the focus of Jack Del Rio’s new staff is the defensive coordinator hire.

Among the top current possibilities appears to be Mike Smith, Eric Mangini and Wade Phillips. The NFL Network is reporting Smith, the former Atlanta coach, and Mangini, a former head coach for the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, are interviewing for the job. De Rio has also considered adding Phillips, a longtime former NFL head coach and assistant.

Smith has been the most connected to the Oakland job and he’ll likely get it if he wants it. He worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville. Del Rio has already hired offensive line coach Mike Tice and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who both worked with him with the Jaguars.

If Smith doesn’t happen, Mangini and Phillips could emerge.

Oakland did get a nice hire in Brad Seely. He is a longtime NFL special teams coordinator who is highly respected. He instantly turned around the 49ers’ special teams unit in 2013. The Raiders had trouble in coverage units all season in 2014, so Seely should bring discipline to the unit.
Last year, as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach, Bill Musgrave wasn't scouting quarterbacks early in the draft. Yet, he found his way to Derek Carr's pro day at Fresno State.

A year later, Musgrave is thrilled he did.

Musgrave and Carr are beginning a working relationship that will be vital to the success of the Jack Del Rio Raiders. In a conference call with Bay Area media Tuesday, Musgrave said the presence of Carr is a big reason why he is coming to Oakland as the offensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeBill Musgrave
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsBill Musgrave will reunite with Jack Del Rio as offensive coordinator of the Raiders.
“The presence of Derek was definitely a factor,” Musgrave said. “I think a number of coaches have expressed interest in being Jack's offensive coordinator, and I know he talked to a number of people, and one of the main reasons would be the presence of Derek Carr.”

Some other highlights from Musgrave's call:

He was Del Rio's offensive coordinator in 2003-04 but was fired after two seasons. Musgrave said there was no head feeling. “Jack and I are always pulling in the right direction,” Musgrave said. He noted that he learned more from those two seasons than perhaps at any other spot.

Musgrave said he met both with Del Rio and new offensive line coach Mike Tice at his interview. Musgrave mentioned Tice multiple times. According to an NFL source, Tice doesn't have any special titles other than offensive line coach, but he will have an influential role on the team. He is a former NFL head coach and he worked with Del Rio in the past.

Musgrave said he will adjust his plan to the Raiders' talent, but he did say he likes to run the ball.

“I'm definitely not going to come in with a system and force anybody to do something that's not natural. We're definitely going to try to customize and tailor the Raiders' system to fit the Raider players. Philosophically, I do believe in running the football. I definitely want to be a physical outfit that runs the ball and imposes their will on the defense,” Musgrave said. “At the same time, it's difficult to defend through the passing game and through being diverse.”

Musgrave is excited about making Latavius Murray a big part of the ground attack.

“Very positive, very positive impressions. Tremendous size and speed, “Musgrave said of Murray. “Looking forward to getting out on the field with him and finding out what he's all about. Finding out where his strengths are so we can tailor our run game to be right up his alley.”

Musgrave said he may bring some of Chip Kelly's approach that he learned in the last year to the Raiders.

“The last 12 months have been terrific for me to see the system here in Philadelphia -- be a part of it, be a contributor,” he said. “We're going to do quite a bit if it fits what the players can do there in Oakland. We're looking forward to getting out on the field in the spring and really finding out where their strengths lie. We talked about tailoring our system to fit them, but I've got a hunch that a lot of the things we did here in Philadelphia will match up real nice and be effective.”

In other Raiders' notes:

The initial favorite for the job, former Oakland offensive coordinator and former Chicago head coach Marc Trestman, was hired by Baltimore on Tuesday.

Former Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson has been hired for the same job in Jacksonville.

Former Oakland head coach Dennis Allen has joined New Orleans as a senior assistant. He was fired by the Raiders in September after going 8-20 after getting hired in 2012. Allen was the Saints' secondary coach earlier in his career. He is still under contract with the Raiders in 2015, but there will be an offset with his Saints' contract.
As he begins to build his Oakland Raiders coaching staff, Jack Del Rio is bringing in familiar faces.

The Raiders announced Monday evening that Bill Musgrave will be the team’s offensive coordinator. Musgrave was Del Rio’s offensive coordinator in Jacksonville in 2003-04 before being fired after the Jaguars were 30th in the NFL in scoring. Clearly, that parting of the ways isn’t a problem for Del Rio or Musgrave more than a decade later.

The other assistant Del Rio has hired in Oakland is offensive line coach Mike Tice, who spent time with Del Rio in Jacksonville as well.

Musgrave, 47, has seven seasons of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator, most recently in Minnesota from 2011-13. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014.

Former Chicago coach Marc Trestman was on Del Rio’s list as was Kyle Shanahan, who resigned after the end of season with two years left on his deal as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and has been subsequently hired as Atlanta's offensive coordinator.

Del Rio is getting a capable, experienced coach in Musgrave. He might not be an upper-end hire as far as reputation goes, but the job will not be too big for him.

Musgrave, a former NFL backup quarterback, has a reputation as a run-first play caller. The Raiders’ former offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, was also a run-first play caller, but the Raiders ended up passing 629 times this season and running 337. That is because they were often playing from behind.

At running back, the Raiders are expected to use Latavius Murray as the primary back along with either a player they draft or sign in free agency.

Musgrave also has plenty of experience with quarterbacks, of course, and the chance to work with promising second-year quarterback Derek Carr was likely part of why he decided to reunite with Del Rio.
New Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is considering Marc Trestman and Bill Musgrave for the offensive coordinator job, and the NFL Network has reported that Del Rio is also talking to former NFL head coach Eric Mangini about running the defense.

Mangini interviewed with Oakland this month for the job Del Rio eventually landed. Mangini was the 49ers’ tight ends coach in 20014, but his history is on defense. He was an outstanding coordinator before becoming a head coach with the Jets and the Browns.

Former San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been linked to Oakland as a candidate for the same job, along with former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, who worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville. Fangio also is interviewing in Washington, and Friday there was a report out of Washington that Smith might be unlikely to join Oakland's staff.

Trestman was reportedly interviewing with Del Rio Sunday, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave is a serious candidate for Oakland's offensive coordinator job as well.

The NFL Network also reported that the Raiders asked Denver permission to talk to offensive coordinator Adam Gase about the same job. Of course, Del Rio and Gase worked together the past three seasons with the Broncos. The NFL Network has reported that five teams are interested in Gase.

Kyle Shanahan was on Del Rio’s list at offensive coordinator, but he reportedly will take the same job in Atlanta. The only known coach Del Rio has hired is offensive line coach Mike Tice. He was most recently in Atlanta and worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville.
It appears the Oakland Raiders' pursuit of Marc Trestman for their offensive coordinator job is taking the next step.

The NFL Network reported Sunday that Trestman, the former Chicago Bears head coach, has an interview with the Raiders in the immediate future. Trestman is considered a favorite of new Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio. Trestman, who had an interview in Cleveland last week, was the offensive coordinator in Oakland when it went to the Super Bowl in 2003.

The NFL Network also reported the Raiders asked Denver permission to talk to offensive coordinator Adam Gase about the same job. Of course, Del Rio and Gase worked together the past three years for the Broncos. The NFL Network reported five teams are interested in Gase. Former Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has also interested Del Rio.

The only known coach Del Rio has hired is offensive line coach Mike Tice. He was most recently in Atlanta and worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, former San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been linked to Oakland as a candidate for the same job, along with former Atlanta head coach Mike Smith, who also worked for Del Rio in Jacksonville.

Fangio is interviewing in Washington. Friday, there was a report out of Washington that Smith may be unlikely to join Oakland's staff.
Jack Del Rio beamed Friday as he was introduced as the 21st head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

The East Bay Area native spoke of the "treat and honor" it is to be leading the team he followed as a child. The "Raider for life" waxed poetic about witnessing the George Blanda renegade Raiders of 40 years ago.

More important, Del Rio didn't lose sight of what's at hand: the future of a franchise that has fallen on hard times.

Del Rio, who has nine seasons of NFL head-coaching experience with the Jacksonville Jaguars, isn't coming into this job clinging to a Raiders' past that is not relevant to getting better. He knows the gory truth -- Oakland hasn't had a winning record since 2002. He knows the Raiders have won a total of 11 games in the past three seasons. As the defensive coordinator, Del Rio was part of a Denver team that won 12 games in 2014 alone.

[+] EnlargeJack Del Rio
AP Photo/Ben MargotJack Del Rio had a 68-71 record in nine seasons as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He knows what has been happening with the Raiders since their appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII, a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after that 2002 season, is not good enough.

"There is no other way to trend from where we're sitting now," Del Rio said. "We have to go up."

Asked about the team's roster, Del Rio, without hesitation, said it needs to get better.

Del Rio's lack of delusion and his honest assessment is what this team needs. It needs to know that it has to get better. That honesty had been lacking recently. There was too much false optimism being sold without the benefit of tangible results in the form of victories.

As Del Rio dropped his honest assessment, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie sat and listened. Now it is up to McKenzie to make this team better for his new coach.

The Raiders figure to be better prepared by Del Rio and his staff than they were in the first three seasons of McKenzie's tenure.

There was a lot of speculation that McKenzie could be fired along with Dennis Allen, the man he hired to be the Raiders' coach when he took over three years ago. But McKenzie has survived despite the team's failings. Just because McKenzie survived last season doesn't mean he will survive another subpar season, however. He needs to produce now.

McKenzie says he plans to build the team through the draft rather than put everything in free agency. However, the Raiders might have upward of $70 million in salary-cap room. This is a strong class of free agents. The Raiders need to make a bigger and better impact in free agency than last year, when they didn't get much overall value despite having more than $60 million to spend.

McKenzie can't survive consecutive years of having immense cap flexibility with no improvement in the win column. And Del Rio deserves to start his Oakland tenure with an improved roster.

We all know Oakland has building blocks in quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack. But the Raiders need help.

It's up to McKenzie to find players who meet the Raiders' needs. Right off the bat they need help at receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary.

There was speculation that Oakland owner Mark Davis wanted Del Rio and McKenzie wanted to keep interim coach Tony Sparano. There might have been some truth to that, but the bottom line it was Davis' call. On Friday, everyone was happy. Davis said Del Rio was the choice of both himself and McKenzie.

"It's an united front," McKenzie said.

Del Rio is going to give the Raiders a chance to get better. It’s up to McKenzie to help him succeed or Del Rio could have a new boss in Oakland sooner rather than later.
It’s certainly clear that two 2014 Oakland Raiders draft picks -- linebacker Khalil Mack and quarterback Derek Carr -- are major building blocks for the future.

However, another player with long-term hope at a key position is Justin “Jelly” Ellis. The fourth-round pick from Louisiana Tech became a core player for Oakland as the season went out. He is one of the reasons why there was some improvement, at times, defensively.

He has received a lot of recognition from his fast contribution, including being named to the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team along with Mack.

Ellis started 14 games and had 21 tackles, according to Nose tackle is a crucial position. It can set the stage for a team’s run defense. There is a reason why the 6-foot-1, 334-pound Ellis has the potential to be that anchor for Oakland.

“He has a nose tackle body type but with better quickness and penetrating skills than most short, fat nose tackle types,” ESPN scout Matt Williamson said. “I like and would say he is a longtime starter.”

That is exactly what teams want from mid-round picks. Getting a pick like this right will help the Raiders through their rebuilding phase.
Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis foreshadowed his choice for the team's next coach on Dec. 29, the final day of another disappointing season.

The Raiders faced the Denver Broncos, and Davis zipped over to Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in the pregame chaos. Davis had a huge smile and clearly had a message for Del Rio: Get ready to be a head coach again.

[+] EnlargeJack Del Rio
Marc Piscotty/Icon SportswireWith his promotion to the Raiders, Jack Del Rio gets his second shot at an NFL head-coaching gig.
Of course, the television cameras caught the exchange. Davis didn't care. Del Rio was his guy and he was letting it be known. On Wednesday, Davis let the football world know: The Raiders are his team and the big decisions will be made by him.

Del Rio, who was the head coach in Jacksonville for nine seasons, will become the 21st head coach in Raiders' history, league sources have told ESPN. Davis is hoping Del Rio -- an East Bay Area native who grew up a Raiders fan and whose family has season tickets -- will end the misery for the team Mark inherited when his father, the legendary Al Davis, died in October 2011. Oakland hasn't had a winning season since 2002.

There are no guarantees that Del Rio will be the elixir to the lack of success in Oakland. But he was the best choice in this market.

He has the experience Davis wanted. Del Rio, 51, went 68-71 in Jacksonville from 2003-11, In two playoff appearances, the Jags were 1-2. His defenses in Denver finished in the top three in the NFL in two of his three seasons there.

And he wants the Raiders job. That's important.

The Raiders simply weren't going to do better than Del Rio. Sure, there were rumors that Davis wanted a rock star to run his team. But Jon Gruden never gave him a chance before signing an extension with ESPN to continue doing "Monday Night Football." Jim Harbaugh was another pipe-dream target for the Raiders, but he flew to Michigan the day after the NFL season ended and became the Wolverines' new coach.

The Raiders weren't going to be players for Todd Bowles, John Fox or Doug Marrone, either. Oakland ended up interviewing seven candidates, and the group wasn't considered to be an all-star cast by others around the league. Most of the coaches the Raiders interviewed didn't garner much other NFL interest this hiring season.

Del Rio may not have been a hot-name hire, but he's a legitimate NFL coach and a tough guy who will look good in the silver and black. The Raiders have some nice building blocks: quarterback Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, who is a linebacker, which was Del Rio's position.

Del Rio can make the Raiders better. And if he is the first coach to lead Oakland to the playoffs in 13 seasons, Davis deserves a pat on his beautifully bowl-cut head. Make no mistake, this is Davis' call. He let general manager Reggie McKenzie hire the coach in 2012. McKenzie went with the inexperienced Dennis Allen and it didn't work out. Allen was fired in September after going 8-28 with Oakland.

There was a report Tuesday night that Davis wanted Del Rio as coach while McKenzie wanted interim Tony Sparano to stay on. Those rumblings have been going on the past couple of days. It is nothing unusual -- there are often disagreements over coaching hires.

It's understandable that McKenzie would want Sparano, one of the GM's staff. But Sparano was 3-9 as Allen's replacement, and the team was routinely blown out on the road during his time as the interim coach.

The bottom line is that McKenzie's tenure could be on shaky ground, and it would make sense if he wanted to move forward with someone he already knows.

But this is Davis' team. And it was his call. Expect to hear a lot of rosiness from all involved at Del Rio's introductory news conference. Optimism has been a January tradition in Oakland. There has been plenty of change in personnel, but not in the results.

But if this is different and the Del Rio hire works, Raiders fans can point to Davis as being a reason why.
Let's look at how Denver's stunning decision to mutually part ways with head coach John Fox can affect the Oakland Raiders' pursuit of Broncos' defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who has his second interview with the Raiders on Tuesday and is considered a leading candidate:

First, I don't think it will adversely affect the Raiders' interest. I don't think the situation blowing up with Fox will make the Raiders look down on Del Rio.

The Broncos are letting all of Fox's assistants look elsewhere, but the team does hold their contractual rights. So, there could be some complications if Del Rio gets the Oakland job and wants to hire some of Fox's staff. But I think that would work itself out.

Del Rio could be candidate in Denver. He was the Broncos' interim coach in 2013 when Fox had health issues. The team likes him. Still, I'd doubt he'd be the top candidate.

Del Rio is from the Bay Area and want the Raiders' job. If it is offered quickly, I'd doubt he'd risk waiting for the Denver job.
The Oakland Raiders appear to be closing in on making a decision on their next coach.

Del Rio
According to an NFL source, Oakland will interview Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for a second time on Tuesday. Del Rio is considered a favorite for the job, along with Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano.

Del Rio met with Oakland owner Mark Davis on Jan. 4. This interview is expected to include more members of the Oakland brass. Former Oakland coach John Madden, a close Davis confidant, has been sitting in on recent interviews.

Del Rio became available when Denver lost on Sunday to Indianapolis in the AFC divisional playoffs. Del Rio has long been considered a favorite in Oakland.

The former Jacksonville head coach is said to be very interested in the job. He grew up in the East Bay Area, and his family are long-time Raiders season-ticket holders. With this second interview, we could know within the next 48 hours if Del Rio is going to realize his family's dream.
The Oakland Raiders have now interviewed seven people for their head coaching job.

The latest was Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano. He met with team officials Wednesday.

Sparano is considered one of the favorites for the job. While more interviews could be in store, the Raiders are expected to be close to wrapping up the first round. It could possibly be close to wrapping up the entire process. There have been indications Oakland could make a new hire within the next few days.

One of the reasons why the Raiders want to make a hire soon is so the next coach has sufficient time to assemble his staff. Three years ago, first-rime head coach Dennis Allen had trouble putting together his staff when Oakland hired him in late January.

CSN Bay Area is reporting former Oakland coach John Madden was sitting in on Sparano’s interview. Madden sat in on Mike Shanahan’s interview. This is no surprise. He is a close confidante of Raiders owner Mark Davis and has sat in on interviews before.

Meanwhile, cornerback Tarell Brown posted an Instagram photo of himself preparing for surgery. He was put on injured reserve in December with a foot issue. He is a free agent.
The Raiders are interviewing interim coach Tony Sparano on Wednesday as they close in on finishing their first round of interviews. Let’s take a look at the seven candidates who have been reported to have interviews.

DARRELL BEVELL, Seattle offensive coordinator

Why I can be sold: He is with a winning program. He’s worked with a lot of good quarterbacks. He’s bright. He has Green Bay history with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Why I’d be hesitant: Never been a head coach. Not sure if he up is for the task of being in control of everything.

JACK DEL RIO, Denver defensive coordinator

Why I can be sold: Strong defensive coach. He has been an NFL head coach, in Jacksonville. Players respond to him. He’s a Bay Area native.

Why I’d be hesitant: Some wonder if he is simply better as a defensive coordinator than a head coach.

PEP HAMILTON, Indianapolis offensive coordinator

Why I can be sold: Young, smart coach who work well with players. Has had success with quarterbacks.

Why I’d be hesitant: There has been criticism of his play calling. Some think he’s best suited for college.

ERIC MANGINI, San Francisco tight ends coach

Why I can be sold: Smart, hard worker who knows both sides of the ball. He has NFL head-coaching experience.

Why I’d be hesitant: He flamed out twice as a head coach. Some have complained about his style.

MIKE SHANAHAN, former three-time NFL coach

Why I can be sold: He has rings. He’s smart and he’d give the Raiders a presence in the head seat they haven’t had in a while. He would help Derek Carr, too.

Why I’d be hesitant: Some think the game has passed him by.

PAT SHURMUR, Philadelphia offensive coordinator

Why I can be sold: Smart, solid offensive history. Has history with McKenzie.

Why I’d be hesitant: Wouldn’t excite fans. Struggled badly as a head coach in Cleveland.

TONY SPARANO, Oakland interim coach

Why I can be sold: Players like him. He knows the team. Good head start.

Why I’d be hesitant: Went 3-9 as Oakland interim coach with lots of blowouts.
After interviewing four former NFL coaches and two of the hottest assistant coaches, the Oakland Raiders will interview interim coach Tony Sparano on Wednesday, the NFL Network reported.

Sparano had been one of two candidates who the Raiders reportedly were interested in who hadn’t yet interviewed, joining Dallas passing game coordinator Scott Linehan. There are indications the Raiders might be coming to a close to ending their search.

If that is the case, it could potentially benefit Sparano. Perhaps the Raiders wanted to interview him late in the process to compare other candidates to him rather than the other way around. Sparano is well-liked by players and the front office. His hiring would be curious to some because the team went just 3-9 under him after he took over for Dennis Allen, who was fired after a 0-4 start. Sparano has publicly stumped for the job.

We could find out fairly soon if Sparano's sales pitch worked.

In other Raiders’ notes:
  • There have been reports that former Oakland coach John Madden sat in on Mike Shanahan’s interview. That is no surprise. Madden has long been a confidante of Oakland owner Mark Davis and he has sat in previous interviews.
  • It seems this time to take off Scot McCloughan the Raiders’ list. The NFL Network reported he will become the Redskins’ general manager. The NFL Network reported Oakland owner Mark Davis made multiple runs at McCloughan, but only in a role under general manager Reggie McKenzie. McCloughan wanted to be the primary football decision-maker. This is yet more evidence that Davis is planning on keeping McKenzie as his main personnel guy for another season. The Raiders are 11-37 under McKenzie. They were 16-16 in the two seasons before McKenzie took over.
  • The Raiders had 17 defensive holding penalties and three illegal conduct calls called on them in 2014 as the penalties became point of emphasis in the NFL. The combined 20 penalties for Oakland was the fifth-highest in the NFL.



Sunday, 1/25