Jason Tarver uses passion to vault Raiders' no-name defense

Tarver: Raiders are 'equipped' to play fast-paced teams

Jason Tarver uses passion to vault Raiders' no-name defense
November 1, 2013, 8:30 am
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The Raiders are 10th in total defense and sixth against the run. They have 11 takeaways in five games. (AP)

Programming note: Watch Friday’s Raiders press conference with Dennis Allen, streaming live online right here at 12:10pm

Jason Tarver has never been more popular, a product of being famous and infamous at the same time.

The Raiders defensive coordinator has received praise for vaulting a no-name defense (save Charles Woodson, of course) into the NFL’s top 10. His inventive blitz schemes have helped exceed expectations as the Raiders push for a .500 record Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Oh, and he may have flipped off some game officials. And was caught on camera. He now has a commemorative hashtag on Twitter. There may or may not be T-shirts.

#Tarvering is just a fad. His defensive scheme is not. Neither is his passion for the game or his desire to win or his defense’s faith in the Tarver way.

[RELATED: Tarver apologizes for giving officials 'the finger']

While a momentary lapse in judgment wasn’t condoned, those who know him best didn’t vilify it.

“The only thing I’ll say is I think he’s done an outstanding job with this defense,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said a day after the incident. “I think he’s a fiery and emotional guy, and I think our players have really taken to that. I think they’ve embraced that type of attitude, and I think he’s got the defense playing at a high level right now.”

Allen said it best. Tarver coaches with passion. His defense plays with it.

The often-wacky, never-dull, always-engaging 39-year old Bay Area native drives his players to do so. The man many call the “mad scientist” – Tarver has a master’s degree in molecular biology and biochemistry. True story. And he wouldn't have it any other way. 

“I think that D.A. [Dennis Allen] gave me a great compliment Monday when he said that I coach with passion,” Tarver said after Thursday’s practice. “If you’re going to do anything in life, you want to be the best. Why limit yourself?

“That’s what we talk to the players about. We say, ‘You guys can run and you’re smart and you love this game, so if you love this game why limit yourself? Why say, ‘I can’t do that,’ ever?’”

Pundits said the Raiders wouldn’t be able to keep up on defense. Not with nine (now 10) new starters. Not without young star power. Not with so much dead money spent on castaways.

The Raiders ignored all that. They kept their heads down and worked and grew and learned to play as one. Now they’re showered with compliments. The Raiders are 10th in total defense and sixth against the run. They have 11 takeaways in five games. They have 21 sacks from 14 different defenders.

That’s part personnel, part belief in the scheme.

“J.T. gives everybody confidence that they can make a play,” linebacker Sio Moore said. “If you buy in and work hard, he’ll you in position to make a game-changing moment.”

[RELATED: Sio Moore finds balance between fun and focus]

That’s the message given to his charges, with aforementioned numbers to support it.

“There are no perfect calls; there’s only perfect execution,” Tarver said. “That’s how we approach it. We say, ‘Hey look, do your job. Do your job, and do it with that kind of passion.’ If you’re not doing it with passion, you’re going to hear about it, but there are very few of our guys who are that way.

“That’s why we’re thankful to (general manager Reggie McKenzie and Allen) for who they brought in and who they keep bringing in, because these guys want to be great. Greatness is not one thing. It sure asheck doesn’t have to do with me. I don’t cross that white line. I don’t play. My job is just to put them in position to make plays.”

Tarver gets excited when they do. Raw passion comes out in practice and occasionally on the sidelines, where he has to rein himself in. He failed to do so when cornerback Mike Jenkins was improperly flagged againstPittsburgh for striking a defenseless receiver. A middle finger came flying out, an act of frustration normally dealt with in other ways.

“Well, you better have just an outlet (for the emotion),” Tarver said. “I’ll quickly take a deep breath or say something, and then you go to the next play. I mean, that’s what happens, so that’s it. You’ve got to let it go. You breathe; you go to the next play.”

Tarver finds solace in the film room, where it’s crystal clear he’s doing something right.

That was evident after Jenkins sniffed out a screen pass in the first quarter of Sunday’s game versus Pittsburgh and made a terrific open-field tackle that forced a punt. Before Jenkins could get up, the entire defense mobbed him in celebration.

Tarver watched that play again and loved everything about it. Great read, flawless execution and, most importantly, everybody reveled in a job well done.

“That moment is what it’s all about,” Tarver said. “When we put on our black jerseys, that’s what we want to do. We want every guy to be on the screen at the end of every play and enjoy the heck out of playing football.”