The Oakland Raiders, once the most feared franchise in the NFL, have been a league laughingstock for the past decade-plus. New head coach Jack Del Rio has a message for his team and the rest of the league: The swagger is back in Oakland.
“I was asked the other day about the Raiders mystique,” Del Rio said Wednesday in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio, per csnbayarea.com. “Let me tell you what the mystique was. It was people knowing they were going to get pounded when they played the Raiders. There was fear developed through physical play of this football team. We want to bring that physicality back.”
“We want to bring swagger back, but it has to be controlled, calculated and fundamentally sound. It has to lead to winning football. It’s not the kind where you’re drawing penalties and playing sloppy and undisciplined.”
“One thing I’ve learned in talking to Raiders greats is that too much is made of the side show and not enough about the hard work and the toughness that was a part of this team.”
Coming from another coach, this statement might not carry a ton of weight, but Del Rio isn’t just any other head coach. Not only does he have a history of coaching hard-nosed teams during his tenure as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he was a hard-nosed player himself, starting 128 games at middle linebacker during his 11-year career.
The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since Bill Callahan lost Super Bowl XXXVII to, ironically, Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since that time, Oakland has been unbelievably bad, posting a cumulative record of 52-136. During that stretch, the Raiders have been outscored by a staggering 1,559 points.
Those numbers paint the picture of utter incompetence, and worse, of anti-swagger—anti-Raiders, if you will. Del Rio has the difficult task of turning it all around and propelling this storied franchise back into the light of relevance.
The turnaround will surely be aided by the simple fact that Oakland finally has what appears to be a franchise quarterback on its roster in Derek Carr. But as the old saying goes: “Games are won and lost in the trenches.”
Del Rio will certainly make winning those critical battles in the trenches a big priority during his reign, and you can be sure his Raiders will not lack any swagger this upcoming season.