Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jack Del Rio: Most qualified Raiders head coach ever?

Jack Del Rio, head coach of the Raiders. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.

When Mark Davis took over as the principal owner of the Oakland Raiders after his father's death in 2011, and subsequently hired Reggie McKenzie as the team's general manager in the 2011-12 offseason, a crack began to appear in the team's legendary veil of secrecy.

Team media guides, for instance, became obviously thicker — though remaining skinnier than many NFL peers'.

But one odd omission jumps out: The Raiders have not listed their all-time head coaches in any logical place since the 2011 media guide (the last year it was printed under Al Davis' ownership), and not in any fashion at all since 2012.

Perhaps that is a subconscious reflection of the parade of mediocrity that led the team during most of the 21st century. Perhaps it is either a deliberate or accidental omission on the part of the media relations staff.

But the strangest thing is, by the time the 2015 and 2016 guides were printed, the Raiders may have been led by the most accomplished head coach the team had ever hired: former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

To clarify: This is not to say Del Rio is the most accomplished head coach the Raiders have ever had, despite bringing an end to a 14-year run of non-winning seasons in only his second year at the helm.

John Madden and Al Davis himself are Pro Football Hall of Famers, while a strong argument can be made for the enshrinement of two-time Super Bowl championship coach Tom Flores.

But those men made their names coaching the Raiders after serving as assistants either with the Raiders or elsewhere. Del Rio, on the other hand, was an established head coach when he was hired. And that makes him pretty distinctive among Raiders head coaches.

Consider, then, the list of all-time Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders head coaches, along with the head coaching experience each man brought to the job. Few, if any, can match Del Rio's record as an NFL head coach in their pre-Raiders careers. Most, in fact, had never been NFL head coaches, or head coaches at any level, for that matter.

Of course, time will tell if Del Rio can match some of his predecessors' achievements after they were hired to lead the team.

The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders' head coaches

Head coach Years w/Raid. Record w/Raid. Prior HC exp. Record WS*
Jack Del Rio 2015-16** 19-13 (0-1) Jax. (8+),
Den. (1-)
68-71 (1-2),
Tony Sparano 2014*** 3-9 Mia. (3+) 29-32 (0-1) 1
Dennis Allen 2012-14 Record w/Raiders None
Hue Jackson 2011 8-8 None
Tom Cable 2008-10 17-27 College (4) 11-35 0
Lane Kiffin 2007-08 5-15 None
Art Shell (2nd time) 2006 2-14/56-52 (2-3) Oak. (5+) 54-38 (2-3) 4+
Norv Turner 2004-05 9-23 Was. (6+) 49-59-1 (1-1) 3+
Bill Callahan 2002-03 15-17 (2-1) None
Jon Gruden 1998-2001 38-26 (2-2) None
Joe Bugel 1997 4-12 Ari. (4) 20-44 0
Mike White 1995-96 15-17 College (14) 82-71-4 8
Art Shell (1st time) 1989-94 54-38 (2-3) None
Mike Shanahan 1988-89 8-12 None
Tom Flores 1979-87 83-53 (8-3) None
John Madden 1969-78 103-32-7 (9-7) J.C. (2) 13-5 2
John Rauch 1966-68 33-8-1 (2-2) None
Al Davis 1963-65 23-16-3 Military (2) n/a 2
Red Conkright 1962 1-8 College (3) 6-25-1 0
Marty Feldman 1961-62 2-15 J.C. (1) n/a n/a
Eddie Erdelatz 1960-61 6-10 College (9) 50-26-8 7
* = Winning seasons. ** = Current head coach, as of January 2017. ** = Interim head coach.

Among the 19 Raiders' head coaches prior to Del Rio, only four had NFL coaching experience, and none came close to Del Rio's 71 career victories. In fact, the only head coach the Raiders have ever hired who had so much as a winning record including Del Rio — was Art Shell, when the Raiders brought him back for a second run as head coach in 2006 after he went 54-38, plus 2-3 in the postseason, in five-plus years in Oakland from 1989 to 1994.

The Shell II era was, of course, an unmitigated disaster, as he went 2-14 and was fired at the end of the 2006 season.

Norv Turner, hired in 2004, had seen some modest success with the Washington Redskins prior to joining the Raiders, with three-plus seasons of winning football among his six-plus years at the helm. Like Shell, who succeeded him, he found no success in Oakland, going 5-11 and then 4-12 before being fired.

Joe Bugel and Tony Sparano also had a few years of mediocre NFL head coaching work on their resumes before serving one season, and part of one season, as Raider head coaches, respectively.

Two other Raiders head coaches had significant and successful college experience, while two more had short and unsuccessful NCAA stints. Two were briefly junior college head coaches, and Al Davis himself had only been a head coach during his military service.

Finally, a whopping nine, or nearly half of the men to lead the Raiders in team history, had never before been a head coach of any kind.

Sources: Oakland Raiders media guides,,, Wikipedia

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