With head coach Dirk Koetter and interim defensive coordinator Mark Duffner’s fates in 2019 uncertain, let’s look at Jack Del Rio as a potential candidate for future DC.
Del Rio has had 20 years of experience in the coaching ranks of the NFL, and he’s seen success both at the HC and DC level positions. Don’t let his 93-94 record fool you. During both his stints as head coach, he’s taken both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders to the playoffs for a combined three times.
Despite never reaching the AFC Title game as a HC, he’s shown he’s at least competent enough to have put up some respectable defenses. A byproduct of Brian Billick’s 2000 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl winning team where he served as linebackers coach, he grabbed his first taste of being DC for the Carolina Panthers in 2002, who finished second in total yards for defense and fifth in points surrendered.
The following year, Del Rio accepted the position as the Jaguars head coach, where he helped mentor and mold Koetter and Mike Smith into future head coaches. The Jags’ defense cracked the top 10 in total defense 4 times and total points 3 times. The Jags fired him during the 2011 season. The following season, he was hired by the Broncos to be their DC for three seasons. Their defense finished 2nd and 3rd in the league in total defense.
Del Rio found another head coaching position with the Raiders in 2015, which happened to be the year the Broncos won a Super Bowl based on what he built there in the years before. Somehow his defensive genius eluded the team; they never climbed out of the bottom third in the league, but they did go 12-4 with the emergence of quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper in 2016 before another first round exit.
During the current season Del Rio was deposed in favor of their former coach, Jon Gruden, who went on a coaching sabbatical in favor of the broadcast booth following his firing from the Bucs.
It would make sense if things came full circle, but here are the major reasons I think Del Rio should be brought on board by the Bucs as at least a DC.
- Assuming Koetter survives the ax at the end of the season, Del Rio has proven himself a success with his DC stints with the Panthers and Broncos and his HC stint with the Jaguars. He’s had a plan and created turnarounds quickly.
- Del Rio’s had head coaching experience. Provided there isn’t a giant talent dump, he could take an existing foundation and add the energy needed to solidify units. He helped make Carr a relevant franchise QB, which he would also have in Jameis Winston. He’s also got some key defensive talent he can set up in a way Mike Smith never could.
- Even when his defenses underperformed, they typically bounced back the following year.
Del Rio’s got experience across the league and has had success leading a unit or a team. He could give the Bucs what they sorely need, stability. At the very least, he could be the defensive mind who helps shape the unit, unless Duffner does a complete 180 with the team’s defense. Del Rio’s got Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano beat in terms of experience and has encountered some measure of coaching success both at the head coach and coordinator positions. He also has the ability to recover from a bad season, something that none of the Bucs coaches since Gruden ever had, including Lovie Smith and currently Koetter.
Even if Del Rio’s not running the team, you can trust him to run a defense, especially the mess of this unit.