ALAMEDA - Jack Del Rio had the kind of day that makes NFL coaches reach for the Excedrin. Time after time at Monday’s press conference at Raiders headquarters, Del Rio turned to his right, nodded at team media relations director Will Kiss and said, “I didn’t even know about that until Will told me five minutes ago.”
Among the grease fires Del Rio encountered throughout the day were rookie cornerback Gareon Conley announcing via Instagram that he was undergoing surgery on his damaged shin; the Broncos (who happen to be the upcoming opponent) firing their offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, and replacing him with the man who orchestrated the Oakland offense last year, Bill Musgrave; and the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, sniping at one of Del Rio’s players,running back Marshawn Lynch, for refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Mexico City on Sunday.
That last event presumably is what prompted the coach’s wife, Linda Del Rio, to tweet that she regretted voting for Trump a year ago. She later deleted the tweet.
Jack Del Rio had no desire to elaborate on any of this TMZ material.
“The bottom line is I’m here to coach the football team,” he said. “That’s my job, that’s my role and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Ah. About that, Coach…
Perhaps Del Rio should have launched into a 20-minute oration on the evils of Instagram or the value of peaceful protest, because the alternative may lead to an even more unpleasant conversation. His football team is a mess right now.
Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the Patriots only served as confirmation.
Granted, New England is a very good team, and Tom Brady is a spectacular quarterback, even at the age of 73. But the Raiders were unsatisfactory in so many areas in that game. The receivers couldn’t catch, the pass rushers couldn’t generate pressure and the defensive backs couldn’t cover anyone. By the end of the romp, the “home team” was being serenaded by chants of “Bra-dy! Bra-dy!”
On the other hand, there are some highly encouraging factors regarding the remainder of the Raiders’ season. They are Tennessee, Buffalo, Baltimore and Kansas City.
Those are the teams the 4-6 Raiders are chasing for an AFC playoff spot, and none of them is setting the world on fire. In fact, a couple of them are setting themselves on fire. The Bills benched a solid quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and replaced him with a kid named Nathan Peterman who doled out interceptions to the Chargers on Sunday as if he were shooting souvenirs from a T-shirt cannon. And the Chiefs, Super Bowl darlings as recently as early October, have lost five of six — including a 12-9 overtime pratfall against the Giants, who were last seen losing to the previously winless 49ers on Nov. 12.
The coach is optimistic the Raiders can rise to the top.
“I think it’s close and I think we’re capable,” Del Rio said Monday. “We just have to find that spark where it happens.”
He added: “We weren’t good enough yesterday, clearly. But as you said, you look up. Where are we? In second place in our division. We’re a game off the wild-card pace. We’re two out of the division lead. There’s six games left, so there’s a lot of hope.”