Editor’s note: Scott Bair is in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his comprehensive coverage and catch his nightly updates on SportsNet Central.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jack Del Rio took a new job as Raiders head coach, and immediately said he hoped to win the AFC West.
A 3-13-record the previous year be damned. His Raiders were going to compete right away. They did so, earning a 7-9 record with several close wins and losses.
Del Rio’s Raiders still fell short of the ultimate goal, finishing third in a division with two playoff teams including the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
No matter. Del Rio upped the ante anyway.
“The next thing is to get double-digit wins and host a playoff game,” Del Rio said in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. “That’s where you want to go, and you only get there if you put in the hard work. It’s not about a vision or a discussion point. It’s about putting in the work and executing well from the offseason on forward.”
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The Raiders are hard at work here at the NFL Scouting Combine, evaluating draft prospects and trying to shore up free agents they want to keep. The Raiders already have a stable young foundation, though they’re another quality offseason away from real contention.
Del Rio believes he can keep up with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West. He isn’t scared of either team, citing last year’s victory over the Broncos as proof the Raiders aren’t that far behind.
“Every year, I believe you should start with winning your division,” Del Rio said Wednesday. “That will remain our No. 1 goal. I think it’s realistic for us. I though it was realistic for us to pursue that goal last year. It’s all about the work we put in coming together as a team. We laid a really nice foundation last year. We have established a winning culture and expect to be competitive and win games.”
Del Rio exudes confidence, and wants his players to walk with swagger and expect to win.
“Our guys should understand (that we’re close),” Del Rio said. “It’s not like we’re talking about making it to Mars. It’s also a lot of work. It’s less about talking about what we’re going to do and more about getting to work.”