Jack Del Rio bet on himself and won with new contract extension

Jack Del Rio bet on himself and won with new contract extension

Jack Del Rio really wanted to become the Raiders head coach. He’s an East Bay guy, and saw an opportunity to turn around a franchise he grew up following. That prompted him to sign a below-market contract, one that put his salary near the bottom of his profession.

He was the NFL’s lowest paid coach after the 2016 season, until owner Mark Davis tore up his contract last month and gave him a better deal.

“That’s a credit to MD,” Del Rio said in a Thursday press conference at the NFL scouting combine. “One of those things was, I bet on me on my contract. It wasn’t a very good contract to start with, but it was an opportunity. And I bet on our ability to get this thing turned around, and I feel like we have. Again, he was a man of his word and he stepped up and tore up that deal and gave me a new one.”

That happened halfway through the deal, following a 12-4 campaign and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002. The Raiders are on the right path, with a competitive window that should be open a while.

Del Rio needed some tools turning the Raiders around, which meant Davis had to write a few checks. The new head coach mandated the Raiders upgrade their practice facility, and Davis approved significant renovations despite the fact he was focused on relocating away from the Bay Area.

He added a state-of-the-art performance center behind the original property. He installed new practice fields, including an improved drainage system that prevents the soggy conditions that plagued the previous surface. The facility itself got a facelift, with adding new technology and a steam room to the building.

“When we talked about the vision I had for the franchise, and the possibility of me joining him as his head coach, there were several things I laid out that I thought was imperative,” Del Rio said. “Facility upgrade, and things like this. And he’s been very, very generous and supportive for Reggie and I to be as unified as we are and out and acquire the players we need and provide them with the kind of performance center and work environment for a first-class organization.”

Del Rio’s first contract was about getting his foot in the door and returning to the head coaching ranks. He had that title nine years in Jacksonville, and was Denver’s defensive coordinator three years after that. Del Rio wanted to be a head coach again and saw opportunity to turn the Raiders into a competitive bunch.

“I knew I was signing a deal that was less than maybe what a guy with nine years of head-coaching experience would deserve,” Del Rio said. “But there’s one thing about…throughout life, many moments where you find the ability to humble yourself and just keep your head down and keep working hard, that side of it usually takes care of itself.

“To me, it’s about being involved in something you have passion for and putting forth the energy and the effort and not being about the money. In the end, the money comes, but the reason I coach is I love to impact young men. I love to teach and inspire and motivate and help them be their best as players and even off the field. So I love what I do. It made it a no-brainer for me.”

Del Rio’s new deal didn’t come because the Raiders won a certain amount. It was an acknowledgement that Del Rio had established a winning culture. He helped the Raiders return to relevance, and Davis rewarded him with a new deal as promised.

“It was more like when you do the things I know you’re going to do, we’ll take care of the contract,” Del Rio said. “So when it came to signing free agents over the last couple of years, when it came to doing the facility upgrades, he’s been a man of word throughout the whole process.”

Oakland, Lott Group pen letter to NFL in last-ditch effort to keep Raiders

Oakland, Lott Group pen letter to NFL in last-ditch effort to keep Raiders

Through the office of mayor Libby Schaaf, the City of Oakland issued the following statement on Friday, revealing a letter they sent to the NFL a day earlier highlighting the viability and appeal of keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

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OAKLAND, CA — Today, the City of Oakland, Alameda County, the Lott Group and Fortress, who have been working in concert to develop a fully-financed local stadium proposal for the Oakland Raiders, shared publicly documents detailing the strength of the Oakland plan.

Specifically, they made public for the first time, their most recent correspondence to the NFL. The letters and accompanying documents were sent in follow-up to a March 6, 2017 presentation Mayor Libby Schaaf and former NFL player and real estate investor Ronnie Lott made to the NFL’s Joint Stadium and Finance Committee that outlined the economic advantages to the league and the team of staying in Oakland.

[RELATED: Letter to NFL from Libby Schaaf, Lott Group]

“We’re not giving up in the fourth quarter,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Since I took office two years ago, I have been focused on taking a team-centered approach that is responsible to the Raiders, the NFL, the fans and the taxpayers of Oakland. We’ve been successful in doing the environmental clearance, aligning the City and the County which jointly own the land, engaging the league and bringing partners to the table in the Lott Group and Fortress who have the financial backing, compassion for this community and intimate knowledge of the game -- on and off the field -- to get a deal done. All that’s missing is the Raiders.”

“I know how passionate the Bay Area is about the Raiders,” said NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. “To rip this team away from Oakland for a second time would be heartbreaking and entirely unnecessary given that we have a viable option on the table that keeps them here and helps this community and the team grow. We have a sophisticated financial partner in Fortress. We have done the due diligence, and it is clear that the only fully-financed, ready-to-roll option for the Raiders is in Oakland.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Larry Reid, whose district is home to the existing Coliseum and the proposed new stadium site, Lott Group partner and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete and Fortress Managing Director Drew McKnight plan to gather with fans, local business leaders, nearby residents and other community members to demonstrate support for the Oakland stadium plan at events planned for Saturday, March 25. This is the day before NFL owners begin a series of meetings during which they are expected to discuss, and possibly vote on Raiders’ owner Mark Davis’ request to move the team to Las Vegas.

City of Oakland media services

Why the Raiders 2013 draft class was disbanded

Why the Raiders 2013 draft class was disbanded

Reggie McKenzie has owned three top 5 picks since becoming Raiders general manager. He used one on Khalil Mack in 2014, another on Amari Cooper a year later. McKenzie got a defensive player of the year and a two-time Pro Bowl receiver.

Pretty nice haul.

His first big draft pick came in 2013, when a 4-12 record the previous year earned the No. 3 overall selection. He turned that into the No. 12 and No. 42 overall selections – the Raiders didn’t have a second-round pick, and also gave up a fifth-rounder in the deal – that garnered cornerback DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson.

Both guys were beset by injury early on, setbacks that kept them from realizing potential identified during the pre-draft process. The Raiders got some quality players from the 2013 draft class – Latavius Murray was a two-year starter and Pro Bowl rusher -- but none of them remain Raiders after their rookie contracts.

Sixth-round tight end Mychal Rivera was the last leave, signing with Jacksonville on Wednesday. The Raiders wanted a few back – Watson and Stacy McGee, in particular – but all of them ended up elsewhere.

That’s not ideal. McKenzie prefers to draft, develop and reward. That didn’t happen for his 2013 draft class. While he didn’t have a first or second round pick, the 2012 draft class has been gone some time now.

He compensated well for that veteran talent void in free agency, bringing in Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele and others of that age.

McKenzie’s draft record after 2013 has improved dramatically. A 2014 group that includes Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson was franchise altering. The 2015 bunch stands strong, and 2016 has talent but can’t be evaluated quite yet.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 draft class and why it didn’t work out:

CB DJ Hayden (No. 12 overall)
Current team:
Detroit (1 year deal, $3.75 million; $2.25 million guaranteed)
Comment: The Raiders didn’t pick up Hayden’s fifth-year option, proof their first-round pick didn’t work out as planned. Hayden was drafted despite a heart condition stemming from a practice injury in college, but a series of soft-tissue injuries slowed him down. He was ineffective at times, though he played better in his final season as a nickel back.

OL Menelik Watson (No. 42 overall)
Current team:
Denver (3 year deal, $18.3 million, $5.5 guaranteed)
Comment: Watson was an athletic, nasty offensive lineman the Raiders hoped to keep, someone who showed real potential when healthy. Those moments didn’t come often for a player who lost 2015 to injury and never made it through a full season.

LB Sio Moore (No. 66 overall)
Current team:
Free agent
Comment: Moore made an instant impact as a rookie working off the edge. He started on the weakside in 2014, but never seemed to recover from a late-season hip injury. He didn’t fit in well with new head coach Jack Del Rio, and he was traded to Indianapolis before the 2015 season began, he has bounced around ever since, playing as a reserve and special teams player. He remains on the open market.

QB Tyler Wilson (No. 112 overall)
Current team:
Out of football
Comment: Tyler Wilson never fit in at the NFL level and didn’t give the Raiders anything for a mid-round selection. Wilson lost his No. 3 job to undrafted rookie Matt McGloin, spent most of 2013 on the practice squad, and was signed by Tennessee late in the year. Wilson was the highest 2013 draft pick to not make the opening day roster.

TE Nick Kasa (No. 172 overall)
Current team:
Out of football
Comment: The converted defensive end struggled with injury, and suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2014 preseason. He spent the year on injured reserve and didn’t return to the active roster.

RB Latavius Murray (No. 181 overall)
Current team:
Minnesota Vikings (Three year deal, $15 million, $3.4 million fully guaranteed)
Comment: Murray was the most productive player in the draft class. He missed his rookie year with an ankle injury, but assumed the starting spot by the end of his second season. Murray exceeded 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, and had nearly 800 yards and 12 touchdowns the following year. He wasn’t a perfect scheme fit for the Raiders, who didn’t pursue him once he hit the open market. Murray signed with the Vikings, and should be a major contributor in that offense.

TE Mychal Rivera (No. 184 overall)
Current team:
Jacksonville Jaguars (Two year deal, worth up to $6.75 million)
Comment: Rivera was a vital receiving option on bad Raiders teams, but fell out of favor under Jack Del Rio. That cut his opportunities way down, giving way to 2015 third-round pick Clive Walford. Rivera has receiving skill but isn’t much of a blocker, and his exit was no a surprise after he was a healthy scratch several times in 2016.

DT Stacy McGee (No. 205 overall)
Current team:
Washington (Five year deal, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed
Comment: McGee flashed interior talent when healthy in 2016, and cashed in with Washington on the first day of unrestricted free agency. The Raiders hoped to bring him back, but he got far more than they were willing to pay. McGee developed well during his time in Oakland, which ultimately priced him out of town.

WR Brice Butler (No. 209 overall)
Current team:
Dallas Cowboys (One year deal, $1.1 million, $300,000 guaranteed)
Comment: Butler was an occasional contributor during two seasons with the Raiders, though the athletic pass catcher was a bit too inconsistent. He finished the 2015 as the fifth receiver, and McKenzie got something for him via trade. Butler remains a Cowboy, and signed a new contract with them this offseason.

DE David Bass No. 233 overall)
Current team:
Free agent
Comment: Bass was cut after the 2013 preseason, but he hung on during the next four seasons with Chicago and Tennessee as a reserve and special teams player.