Wanted: Defensive coordinator
Silver & Black Illustrated|February - March 2021
The Raiders didn’t wait long to begin their search for a new defensive coordinator, and it’s becoming clear that Jon Gruden has already narrowed his list down.

While there have been numerous names mentioned as potential links to the job, Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock appear to be zeroing in on a handful of candidates in their hopes of filling the vacancy quickly.

Whoever gets the job will be inheriting a huge mess. Under Paul Guenther’s direction for a little more than 2 ½ seasons, the Raiders defense was abysmal in 2020 and a prime reason the team once again failed to make it to the postseason.

From a pass rush that has been mostly nonexistent to a run defense that leaked like a sieve on nearly every play to a secondary that missed tackles on a routine basis, not to mention an entire defensive unit that looked lost at times, the new coordinator will not have much time to ease into the gig.

Gruden, whose success from here on out in his second tenure with the Raiders will depend greatly upon picking the right candidate, ticked off a list of traits he wants in whomever he picks for the job.

“I think number one, great communication,” Gruden said. “A guy that can develop players, a man that will utilize his assistant coaches and allow them to express themselves and get more out of their units and a guy that has a history of success, a guy that has a great day-to-day work ethic and knowledge of the offenses that he has stop. Somebody that can really adapt to Lamar Jackson and the style of offense they play to the next week where you got to get ready for Pat Mahomes and then it’s on to Philip Rivers. There’s a lot of different variables that you have to deal with and adapt to. A people person, great drive and a real desire to be a Raider.”

With apologies to veteran coordinators like Wade Phillips (who has privately campaigned for the job), Romeo Crennel, Marvin Lewis, Matt Patricia and Dan Quinn, all of whom are capable coordinators, Gruden has whittled the list of candidates to a select few.

Before the first round of the playoffs had even begun, the Raiders had already interviewed former Jaguars head coach and current Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and ex-Cowboys secondary coach Kris Richard. Close Gruden friend and former assistant Raheem Morris, who served as the Atlanta Falcons interim coach after Quinn was fired early in the 2020 season, may also be brought in, provided he doesn’t get the permanent job. Joe Barry, the Rams assistant head coach and linebackers coach, is almost certain to get a look as well.

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