Who’s Really Running The Raiders Offense And Defense?

Coming off a 12-win regular season, no one anticipated the Raiders would make significant changes to their coaching staff. After all, the last time the Raiders finished the regular season with more than 12 wins was 1976 and Gerald Ford was president.

Nevertheless, the Raiders offense and defense will be under new management in 2017.

After taking subtle jabs from head coach Jack Del Rio late in the season, Bill Musgrave will no longer preside over the Raider offense as Del Rio hopes to incorporate more “big boy football” to the offensive gameplan – which in Jack-speak means a greater emphasis on the running game.

For better or worse, the Raiders promoted 36 year-old Todd Downing to offensive coordinator and many, including Greg Papa (the play-by-play voice of the Raiders), expect Mike Tice to have a heavy hand in next year’s offense. Given Tice’s resume and the level of trust Del Rio has in him, Papa’s theory stands to reason. Tice also gave Downing his first NFL job in 2003 with the Vikings – so there’s an interesting dynamic there.

The Raiders will only benefit from a stronger running game, but Derek Carr is the cornerstone of the offense. In 2016, the pass tended to open up the run. Can the opposite be true under new management?

As Downing, Tice, and Del Rio hope to build on Musgrave’s success, a similar trio has been tasked to overhaul the defense.

Ken Norton Jr. is entering his third year as Raiders’ defensive coordinator, but realistically he returns in title only. With the addition of John Pagano, who officially joined the Raiders with the title of Assistance Head Coach – Defense, there’s little reason to believe Norton Jr. will be at the controls next season.

Behind Del Rio and Pagano, Norton Jr. looks to be a third wheel of sorts.

If the defense improves, credit will ultimately go to Pagano. If it gets worse, Norton Jr. already doesn’t have the best resume in Oakland.

With that in mind, Del Rio’s fingerprints are all over the defense and he deserves credit for not making a scapegoat of Norton Jr. – who was really hired to learn on the job. Ideally, the addition of Pagano will allow Del Rio to focus more on head-coaching duties – where it’s clear he has made the greatest impact since joining the team.

So what to make of all the moves?

On offense, the Raiders seemed to roll when Musgrave cut the cord and trusted Carr. Musgrave’s scripted plays sometimes bogged down the offense – particularly early in games. Maybe the one-yard out routes are gone for good?

Ultimately, Carr has a great relationship with his coaches and Del Rio trusts him. The Raiders finished 11th in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2016 – and only three teams with more carries made the playoffs.

Running the ball less may not be the answer. Catching the ball better may be. Maybe fix what’s broken and leave alone what’s working?

Defensively, there’s nowhere the Raiders can go but up, right? Not necessarily.

Ken Norton Jr.’s defense held a one-possession lead on the final drive of 8 games in 2016. In fact, they didn’t blow a halftime lead all season. It wasn’t always pretty and the Raiders finished last in the NFL in sacks (25), but the defense made stops when they needed stops – maybe one of the reasons Norton Jr. is still on the job.

Pagano should be an upgrade on the defensive staff, but it’s no secret the majority of the players hold Norton Jr. in high regard.

Just as with the offense, staff cohesion will be key.

Hopefully adding a few more cooks to the kitchen will be a good thing.

twitter: @raidersbeat


1 thought on “Who’s Really Running The Raiders Offense And Defense?

  1. Musgrave wasn’t fired because they think they should run more. No it’s when to run that’s was the problem.its being overly conservative with a lead, it’s not takeing enough shots downfield it’s not utilizing the big play fullback enough when you need an inch. It’s deciding to go pass happy in the rain and mud against a team that is not great at stopping the run. Downing thinks more like Carr they both want to be aggressive. You could see it when Carr was mic’d up in 2015 , Carr begging Musgrave to let him take a shot downfield, and Downing almost like he’s talking over must like “hell yeah let’s do it” with enthusiasm. Expect more no huddles, expect more deep balls and on defense expect more 3-4 and expect some exotic blitzes.

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