Minutes after the Raiders fell to the Los Angeles Chargers, 30-10, Del Rio, the Raiders head coach, was told by owner Mark Davis that he wouldn’t be back next season.
“He said he loved me and appreciated all I did to get the program going in the right direction,” a subdued Del Rio said. “But he felt like he needed to make a change.”
Del Rio leaves after compiling a 25-23 record in his three seasons with the Raiders, making the playoffs in one of those years. After a debut season of 7-9, Del Rio followed that with a 12-4 mark and an AFC wild-card berth.
Oakland entered this season with grand expectations. But a struggling offense and a defense that was uneven early led to a dismal year. The Raiders hit the tape at 6-10 and soon after, Davis hit the eject button on Del Rio.
“I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me and I mean that,” Del Rio said. “I am very grateful; it was my childhood team. But it is a result that I understand.”
The move only heightens speculation that Gruden will return as the Raiders coach. But Derek Carr wasn’t in the mood to talk about that. Instead he stressed his closeness with Del Rio.
“We weren’t good enough for him and we have to take ownership of that as players and that is where we are right now,” Carr sad. “We are kind of angry that we let it get to that, but we understand the business part of it.”
Carr said he was surprised Del Rio was axed.
“We didn’t see this coming,” he said. “We were all excited about coming back next year, better and hungry.”
Instead the queasiness Carr experienced came from losing a coach.
“We had some great talks about life, great talks about football,” Carr said. “He allowed me to grow so much as a player. Now looking back on it is crazy how it worked out. We didn’t do well as a team and that is just one of the things that happens now.”
Did Del Rio get a fair shake?
“I’m not getting into what’s fair or not,” Carr said. “It’s been three years with him and we had some really good times. We did some things that haven’t been done here for a while. It’s hard, I have to be honest with you.”