With only 32 head coaching positions available in the National Football League, ascending to the top of the organization as head coach isn’t an easy task. Less a gift and earned more through graft, every current head coach boasts a unique story to how they crafted their resume.
Jack Del Rio is one of 32 head coaches in the NFL today. How did he get there? We took a look at his path to securing one of the most elusive jobs on the market and where his current team is heading.
Jack Del Rio began his affiliation with the NFL as a player. He played college football at the University of Southern California as a linebacker and was ultimately drafted 68th overall by the New Orleans Saints. He would only play there for two years before making his way to Kansas City. Del Rio would play three seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and four for the Minnesota Vikings before hanging up his cleats for the clipboard.
Beginning of Coaching Career
Jack Del Rio made the transition from player to coach when he was 34 years old. He joined Mike Ditka’s staff as the strength and conditioning coach for the New Orleans Saints. After two seasons in the “Big Easy,” he headed up Baltimore and the defensive side of the ball to take the job of linebackers coach for the Ravens. With Brian Billick, Del Rio would earn his first Super Bowl Championship ring in 2000. While Del Rio was still there, Baltimore would also advance to the division round of the 2001 playoffs, losing to the Steelers 27-10.
Given the reputation of the Ravens defense, Del Rio parlayed his experience into a defensive coordinator role with the Carolina Panthers. It would only take one season working under John Fox in Carolina for someone to come knocking at Del Rio’s door to offer him a head coaching role.
Jack Del Rio would get his first swing at being a head coach in the NFL in Jacksonville, Florida. He succeeded Tom Coughlin, the franchise’s first ever head coach, who orchestrated three losing seasons in a row (2000, 7-9; 2001, 6-10; 2002, 6-10). Although Del Rio struggled during his first season – with the Jaguars achieving an 5-11 record – he navigated his way to successive winning seasons (2004, 9-7; 2005, 12-4) and a trip to the playoffs in 2005. The Jaguars would lose to the New England Patriots 28-3.
While Del Rio earned his best win total in 2005, his best season came in 2007, when the Jaguars achieved an 11-5 record. In the postseason, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round 31-29, but ultimately lost to the Patriots (again) 31-20 in the divisional playoff round. With two .500 seasons (8-8), four losing seasons, and three winning seasons, the Jacksonville ownership had seen enough. Jack Del Rio was relieved as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars 11 games into the 2011 season.
After parting ways with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Del Rio joined Denver Broncos head coach John Fox’s staff as the defensive coordinator. He bided his time in Mile High for three seasons – going to the Super Bowl in 2013 – before heading to the Oakland Raiders, replacing interim head coach Tony Sparano. Although the 2015 Oakland Raiders ended up finishing third in the AFC West, behind the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, four Pro Bowlers would help form a foundation for Del Rio to build upon in 2016: quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack.
With the 2016 regular season completed, the Oakland Raiders are headed to the postseason while Del Rio’s former employer, the Denver Broncos, will be watching the playoffs from the couch. He’s marshaled the team toward a 12-4 record claiming the #5 Wild Card seed in the AFC. What remains to be seen is if the Raiders will be able to cope without Derek Carr, who suffered a broken fibula in week 16. This will be the biggest test of Del Rio’s coaching legacy to date: Is he able to bring the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl with their MVP-caliber QB sidelined?
Del Rio Grande
Jack Del Rio is just one of 32 lucky individuals – a head coach in the NFL. These jobs don’t come around often, and he’s been fortunate enough to get two shots at it with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. Want to show off your Raiders pride and root Del Rio deep into the playoffs? Head to Fanatics.com for the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel for all fans of Raider Nation.