The NFL Regular season may have ended weeks ago, but the first major hire was not made until last Sunday. That’s when the Buffalo Bills hired former Jets’ coach Rex Ryan as their head coach. Things were quite for the next few days in the coaching stratosphere, barring John Fox’s departure from Denver.
But on Wednesday, the 14th of January, when the remaining coaching vacancies finally began being filled. Two hires were made on this day, as the Oakland Raiders hired former Jaguars head coach and recent Broncos defensive coordinator Jack del Rio, and the Jets made a huge splash.
First, let’s go through Del Rio’s resume. Best remembered for his eight-season stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach, Del Rio’s mantra has been toughness through and through. He played college football as a linebacker for the USC Trojans, winning the Rose Bowl MVP and was an NCAA All-American in his senior season. He also played catcher for the Trojans’ baseball team, alongside legendary baseball players Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire.
As a player in the NFL, Del Rio played for the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings from 1985 to 1995. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1994 and part of the 1985 All Rookie team.
As a coach, Del Rio has a pretty solid resume. He was a Linebackers coach for the Saints for the 1997 and 1998 seasons, before holding on to the same position for the Baltimore Ravens from 1999 through the 2001 seasons., where he won his only Super Bowl.
In the 2002 season, Del Rio had his best season. As the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, he led the team to the tune of being the second-best defense in the league. That success resulted in his lone head coaching role, with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
From 2003 until 2011, Del Rio was the Jaguars’ head coach. Overall, his success was mixed, but the results are something the Raiders would love to replicate. After going 5-11 in his first season, Del Rio’s squad went 9-7 in 2004.
The following year, the Jaguars went 12-4, and made the playoffs as a wild card team. The reason why they didn’t win the division was because, the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning, went 14-2 that year. The Jags played the reigning two-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, losing 28-3.
After going 8-8 in 2006, returned to the playoffs in 2007, going 11-5. They won their first playoff game at Pittsburgh. They took a 21-7 lead into halftime, and were up 28-10 heading into the fourth quarter. They melted down in that final frame, allowing the Steelers to take a 29-28 lead with 6:21 to go on a Najeh Davenport run, but scored a game-winning field goal with 37 seconds remaining. The following week, against the unbeaten New England Patriots, they scored early, and the score was tied at 14 at the half. But, in the second half, the Patriots outscored them 17-6, and once again, the Jaguars season was ended by the New England Patriots.
In his final four seasons with the Jaguars, Del Rio led the team to 5-11, 7-9 and 8-8 seasons, before getting fired late in the 2011 season. He was 3-8 at the time of his firing, giving him a 68-71 record for his coaching stint,
After getting fired, Del Rio was the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. In the 2013 season, he served as the team’s interim coach in place of John Fox, who was dealing with a heart condition. Now, he’s the coach of the Raiders, and just might be able to lead them back to relevancy.
Speaking of relevancy, that’s where the New York Jets were in 2009 and 2010. The team was head coached by the bombastic Rex Ryan, who led the team to the AFC Championship each year. The team never made it back to the playoffs, and Ryan was let go a few weeks ago, and his replacement has the NFL buzzing.
That’s because six years after making the fire-cracking hire of Ryan, the team hired yet another defensive mastermind. This one, however, is much more quiet and demure. That man is none other than former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who actually had his first NFL coaching opportunity with the Jets.
After spending eight years as an NFL safety from 1986 until 1993, seven of which were with the Washington Redskins, he began his coaching career by spending the 1997 season as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Morehouse College. The following two seasons, he held the same positions with Grambling State.
Bowles then got a job with the Jets as a secondary coach in 2000, a full 15 years before his current role, in his first NFL coaching gig. The following three seasons, he coached the secondary for the Cleveland Browns, mostly serving as just a “nickel package specialist”.
From 2005 through 2007, Bowles served as the secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys, before spending the following four seasons in Miami. In Miami, from 2008 until 2011, Bowls served as a secondary, as well as assistant head coach. For the final three games of the 2011 season, Bowles served as the interim head coach for the Dolphins, going 2-1 in the process.
Bowles’ success resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles hiring him as their secondary coach, and he served as the team’s interim defensive coordinator for the final months of the season, after Juan Castillo was let go. But for the last two years, he had served as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. Each year, his defense excelled, stunning the entire league, being an elite, to-five defense each year.
Now, he is the head coach of the Jets, and although the defense is already elite, he will have to help steer the entire team in the right direction.
In the end, only time will tell whether the hirings of Del Rio and Bowles were the right moves to make. One thing that’s for certain is that each has deserved their coaching job. Congratulations to them both, and hopefully, they each do well.