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Jack Del Rio on the Raiders, pains of coaching Antonio Brown

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NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Jack Del Rio

Former NFL head coach, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars

Born: April 4, 1963

Experience: 12 seasons as head coach; 32 combined seasons as NFL coach and player

Interview by Brooke Cersosimo | April 9, 2019

Not really, no, [I wouldn't have done anything differently in Oakland]. Maybe (I should have) spoken up about personnel issues that weren't going how I wanted them to go. That's probably the one area that's a little frustrating. I had two stints as a head coach and the guys that I worked with were good guys, but I never felt like I got the guys I needed. That's hard to deal with, and I think that's why Coach (Nick) Saban went back to college. He couldn't pick his own players. I think there's an element to that that's a little frustrating.

Beyond that, I don't have any regrets. I think we did a good job in both [Oakland and Jacksonville]. In both places, the team got worse when I left. We were doing some good things. We brought the Raiders to a place they hadn't been in over a decade. ... I grew up a Raiders fan, and to be able to bring them back to the playoffs, I'm proud of that.

To me, the Raiders situation wasn't a hot seat. That was a love for Jon Gruden by the owner. Owners do what they want to do. I think Mark Davis clearly understands what I brought to that organization, and he expressed gratification for us doing what we did. It enabled them to move to Vegas and be a respected team again, which they hadn't been for so long.

Coach Gruden was somebody [Davis] coveted for a number of years and was finally able to convince him with a boatload of money. Now, Jon gets his chance to play that out and we'll see what that is. But from my standpoint, it didn't swirl around until the very end (of the 2017 season). And that was only because Jon was going to accept the job.

[The Raiders didn't move on] because we weren't doing a good job. I had a winning record there. We became relevant again. I know we did a good job.

In Jacksonville after nine years, the way out had a different feel. We had an ownership change. When I was let go, Shad Khan became the owner that same day, so he wanted a fresh start. In both cases, [our staff] did a good job.

Well, [after our staff left Oakland, the Raiders organization] was basically dismantled from a culture standpoint, from player development, the way we did nutrition, strength training. They kind of pulled the plug on a lot of that stuff, so they're a team in transition. Again, it's a year-to-year league. Last year was a down year and I'm sure they were disappointed, but it's a new year.

I've been in the league a long time. Wherever I'm working, that's who I'm aligned with and I'm going to give them everything I have. I don't look much in the rearview mirror. I've just never lived life that way.

Every team makes their own decision and [the Raiders] have every right to do what they feel is best for the team. My only point is, when you have a player of that quality on and off the field -- I mean, I could really lay my head down at night and sleep peacefully knowing Khalil Mack was never going to be in trouble. He's a prince of a man. He's a great human being, a great teammate, a really hard worker and a really, really great player. To me, you collect those guys.

The ones you want to get rid of are guys who have some sort of problem you know is going to pop up eventually. Or some flaw or injury or whatever it might be. There are a lot of different reasons to sour on a player and remove them from your team. I just don't think [Mack] is a type you remove.

There are some candidates (in the draft that could help fill Mack's void). ... Nick Bosa is a technician, but doesn't have the gift of speed that Khalil has. Josh Allen has the speed, but I'm not sure he has the toughness Khalil brings at the point of attack. Montez Sweat has the most upside, like he may go beyond there, but he's raw. I just don't know if those guys get there, but unless they fall in love with one of the defensive tackles, I think they are going to try to get the next Khalil Mack with one of those guys.

I love the talent, but [Antonio Brown] has clearly shown that he's going to be a pain in the ass. He's a very talented guy and I would love to have him. I would work with him, no problem. If [players] have talent, you tend to tolerate it a little bit, unless it becomes disruptive to your team. He's going to have to learn that to really help the team. If he continues doing the things he's been doing, just like he upset the Steelers, he's going to upset the next team he's on. There are certain things -- I mean, this is America and he's free to do what he wants -- but those aren't the things that are indicative of a good teammate. The working hard and being a good player definitely helps the team, which is why he'll continue to get chances to be special until his skills deteriorate. That's when people will get tired of him.

Every coach has to make his own choice on who he's going to connect himself with [at quarterback]. I had three years where I enjoyed that connection with Derek [Carr]. Coach Gruden has to make that determination whether he has that connection with Derek. There were rumblings coming out of there last year that make us ask [if Gruden is moving on], and they're kicking the tires on some of these quarterbacks. It makes you wonder. But that's their call.

Derek was one of our unquestioned leaders. Derek on offense and Khalil on defense. I think they had a pact about it. He showed up early, stayed late, put in the time, really understood protections. He was a good pro. I talked to him about some of the things I had learned as far as how an elite quarterback prepares and manages time and delegates. We'd meet once a week and talk about family, talk about ball, talk about a whole bunch of things. I just wanted that relationship.

The one (player) I haven't been able to stop is Tom Brady. I'm not alone. Tom has been really good against the teams we've brought against him. The one victory that comes to mind was the (2013) AFC Championship Game in Denver. We had a depleted defense that actually played really well, and we won that day and got a trip to the Super Bowl. We won that day, but the rest is pretty much in favor of Tom.

No, I don't think [there's a player who is untradeable]. Even Tom. What happens is that late in their career, it's a matter of ownership and if they're going to allow it to happen. I don't think that will happen (in Brady's case) because there's so much love and respect between (Robert) Kraft, (Bill) Belichick and Brady that I don't think that will happen.

But I don't think anyone's untradeable because it's always going to be team over player. But that would be a hard one to see him in a different uniform. But it's kind of like Joe Montana. Who would have thought Joe Montana would be in a Chiefs uniform at the end of his career? Crazy things happen. I was a huge Kenny Stabler fan, and seeing him in a uniform other than the Silver and Black was crushing. It happens to even the greatest of players.

I love to compete. I enjoyed my time (coaching), and I'm looking forward to being active this year. There were a couple of opportunities, but nothing really worked out this past year. Maybe next year. But yeah, I still have a lot of passion and energy. I'm in as good a shape as I've been the last 10 years. I feel great.

I'll consider options next year again, but this year, I'm going to do some media stuff, so I'm going to have some fun.

My wife and I traveled and did things that, in the last 34 years playing and coaching, I wasn't able to do. We spent a lot of time (together) and saw the world. We did a golf trip in Ireland and Scotland. I walked El Camino from Portugal to Spain. We went to France. We went to London. We did a lot of great things and there were so many neat experiences. The most beautiful was we went on a bike excursion with 10 other couples in Mallorca, Spain. That was beautiful.

The volume of requirement. You don't really know until you get into [the head coach's] seat what it takes. You think you have a good idea. As a [defensive coordinator], I thought I'd know what to do. I made notes as I was preparing along the way. When I was a linebacker coach, I was preparing to be a coordinator. When I was a coordinator, I prepared to be a head coach. I kept files and things on my computer and stamped the date on it.

But until you get in that seat, you don't realize how much time, how many different people are going to come talk to you that you need to guide and direct. It makes it harder to actually stay in the football part. It's like being a teacher, then becoming the principal. There's a lot more administrative work. All aspects of the football team run through the head coach -- or they should -- so the volume of work is the biggest [challenge].

Things started to slow down after a couple years (as head coach) in Jacksonville. The first year is hard for anybody and can be a little bit overwhelming. The second year, things started to slow down. I went nine years in Jacksonville as a head coach and then I was a defensive coordinator in Denver. We had a great run there and a lot of success and a lot of fun. Then I got my next opportunity (to be a head coach). At that point, so many things were clear. It was a lot easier to run the show and be the head coach and do the things that needed to be done.

I'm not giving [first-year head coaches] any advice because when they fail, I'm going to get another job. But no, to me, you have to be authentic and be yourself. That's really the advice I can give. If you're good enough, you'll stick. If you're not, it'll churn you out.

I'm happy for [Anthony Lynn, who was on my staff in Jacksonville]. He's in a great situation with a veteran quarterback and a defense that's got a bunch of good players. I think he's done a good job of going in and setting the tone and being consistent. That's important. I think he gave [the Chargers] a stabilizing [figure] -- not a overreactor, confident, a guy who knows what he wants and expresses himself clearly to the players. I think he's done a great job there.

When you look at teams and the way they build, and as I look at Pete Carroll, last year was remarkable. You gotta give [Seattle] a lot of credit for being able to take what was a great secondary and basically dismantle it and still play great. It's hard to do and it was remarkable.

I think there's a desire for more teams to want quarterbacks under their rookie deal. It's just hard to pay guys $30 million-plus and have a good team around them. I think those factors are part of the reason why I say it wouldn't surprise me [if Russell Wilson wasn't a Seahawk in 2019].

When he made the comment about how you have until April 15 to pay me, that kind of said that might be the last straw. That might kick this into gear where maybe they do consider options. And it happens to be just a little bit before the draft. They don't have the draft capital right now to go get one of the [top] quarterbacks, but maybe they do accumulate trade value and have the ability to get that.

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