New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio took more than a month to complete his staff. He didn’t put a timetable on this extensive search, during which some posts filled quickly, while it took weeks and several interviews to find the right man for certain jobs.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was among the last to come on board. That shouldn’t be perceived as a bad thing, because Del Rio is thrilled with this choice.
The Raiders swung a missed on a few defensive coordinator options, including former Falcons head coach Mike Smith -- he’s apparently taking a year off -- and Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham -- he’s staying at school -- before landing Norton from the Seattle Seahawks.
Jack Del Rio is happy to pair up with a Norton, a former teammate with the Dallas Cowboys. He thinks the players will feel the same way.
“Ken has great passion,” Del Rio said on Thursday during a lunch with select local press. “He really connects with the players. He’s been a part of great defenses there in Seattle, so he’s coming in with knowledge of what it looks like to win, what it takes to win, how you put together a roster, how you motivate a roster. He’s going to be excellent. I’m really excited about the connection that he’ll bring, the passion that he brings every day. He likes to have fun. It’s going to be a real positive environment. Players are going to love it. They’re going to play hard for us. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to play fast. We’re going to have fun getting after people.”
Del Rio has a track record of success as a defensive coordinator and Norton has never been one, but the 2015 Raiders defense will be a collaborative effort between the two minds. Norton said he’ll call plays, though Del Rio will be heavily involved in the game plan. The longtime friends and former teammates are excited about working together because they share football philosophies.
We both believe in the basic premise that if guys understand what they’re supposed to do, and you have good teachers, and you’re able to develop guys, and bring the best out of guys, and bring the best out of them, and get them to play hard for you, then you start developing that confidence, you start flying around the field and getting after people, that’s how you play great defense.”
Del Rio hired some assistants later than others, but felt no need to complete his staff quickly.
“I think we’ve assembled a strong staff, a staff of really good teachers, a staff of really good people, and I feel good about where we’ve ended up,” Del Rio said. “I was not in a rush. I think the first time around I was a head coach, I thought there might have been some kind of prize at the end of it if I got through with it in record time.
“I didn’t feel that pressure this time around. I really took the time to discern, to check references, to spend time with the people and to make sure it was a good fit. The No. 1 thing is that they were going to be loyal to me and that they were excited about being here in Oakland and being a part of this football team.”