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“Who is Ken Norton Jr. and Why The Raiders Should be Excited About Their New Defensive Coordinator”

ken norton jr. 

“Who is Ken Norton Jr. and Why the Raiders Should be Excited About Their New Defensive Coordinator”

After much speculation, Ken Norton Jr. was hired as the Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator today.

Norton Jr. is the kind of coaching hire that is exciting.  An excellent player in college and in the pro’s who loves football.  He has proven that he really wants to be a coach by paying his dues first being a linebackers coach at USC, and then following Pete Carroll to the NFL in the same position for the Seattle Seahawks.

He is a charismatic person, who was a jokester as a player.  He was very serious on the field though, priding himself in stopping the run and being tough and physical.  Pete Carroll’s philosophy is to rush the passer and stop the run and that is right up Norton Jr.’s alley.

When he played, Norton Jr. famously would celebrate big plays by getting into a boxing stance and pretending to spar.  This was in honor of his father, boxer Ken Norton Sr. who was one of the few to beat Muhammad Ali.

Some Raider fans may remember him as being the player; along with San Francisco 49ers Bryant Young; who tackled Napoleon McMcallum and caused his horrific knee injury.  When Norton Jr. knew McCallum was hurt, he famously would not move allowing people to attend to him.  Other than Joe Theisman’s injury, it was the worst that was ever seen.

Norton has had a long history of coaching pro bowl linebackers.  He helped Seattle’s Bobby Wagner become one of the best in the NFL and at USC, he was credited for mentoring many quality future pro bowl linebackers including Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews III, Rey Maualuga, Lofa Tatupu, Dallas Sartz, Keith Rivers, and Kaluka Maiava.

His style of coaching is very aggressive and physical; a take no prisoners style that is intimidating.  The Raiders have talented linebackers and if they can shore up the defensive line and stay healthy, the front 7 can change the fortune of the Raiders very quickly.

If you look at the quick turn arounds of teams in recent history, it is due to the front defensive 7.  Teams like Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona have turned around their fortunes the last 5 years due to the great defensive pressure they put on offenses.  If you can rush the passer with 4 players, and stop the run, you will have an elite defense.

I’m not a retread guy; I’d rather have a young, exciting and hungry head coach with no coordinator experience who has a proven track record of success, over a 15 year veteran coach who rarely succeeds or has average success.  Norton Jr. has won at every level as a coach, and as a player and he can bring a winning mindset that is also needed.

The Raiders have had serious issues the last 12 years but with Norton Jr., this is a big time hire that won’t make much publicity.  I think with the additions of Mike Tice and Ken Norton Jr., they will begin to instill a physical toughness that has been needed in Oakland for a long time.  The Raiders and their fans should be excited about this one.

 Coaching History:
University of Southern California (2004–2008)
Linebackers CoachUniversity of Southern California (2009)
Linebackers Coach/Assistant Head CoachSeattle Seahawks (2010–2014)
Linebackers Coach

Oakland Raiders (2015–present)
Defensive Coordinator

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

The Oakland Raiders yesterday added ex Jack Del Rio hire and Jacksonville Jaguar Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave as their new Offensive Coordinator.  It was a surprise hire to many people.

Local fans may remember Bill Musgrave as a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and a few other teams.  After his playing days, the Raiders hired him in 1997 as a quarterbacks coach.  He had 4 really good years as a quarterback at the University of Oregon.

Musgrave is a journeyman coach who has never stayed at one place very long.  He has been the OC of 5 teams in 17 years and in between that he’s been quarterbacks coach or an assistant.

As offensive coordinator with those 5 teams, he has had very mild success.  His best year was in 2013 when the Vikings offense was 13th in total yards and 14th in scoring.  As an OC, his offenses have never been in the top 12, and most have struggled.  Before his job at Minnesota, he had never had a top 21 offense.  He has had some good moments though and he’s a well respected and hard working guy.  He’s also very well liked which definitely doesn’t hurt.

To his credit; even though it’s hard to give QB coaches all the credit; he did also have some nice years as quarterbacks coach.  He was QB coach when Matt Ryan first started out and did well.  Byron Leftwich was never great but his best year was when Musgrave was at Jacksonville.

Some like to give him a moderate amount of credit for Mark Sanchez having his best QB rating in his career in 2014 when Musgrave was QB coach of the Eagles.  If you do that though, then you also have to give him the blame for Nick Foles who played half of the year before he got hurt.  Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and had only 2 INTs in 2013 before Musgrave arrived.  Last year in half a season with Musgrave as QB coach, Foles threw 13 TD’s with 10 interceptions and looked lost at times.  Foles now is a question mark for the Eagles and they are debating whether to give him a big money long term contract.

As offensive coordinator it’s a much clearer picture with shaky results.  He was no longer allowed to call the plays after only 4 games when he was the OC at Carolina in 2000.  He was also let go by Jack Del Rio at Jacksonville after only 2 years of being an OC with near the worst offense in the NFL.  In his defense he has never had great quarterbacks as a coordinator, but his style is pretty clear.  He’s always had a conservative style of running the ball and running it often with a WR heavy passing game.

He did have some west coast influence with Mike Shanahan but he’s never truly instilled it into his offenses.

When he was first hired at Minnesota, the Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper did two articles on him asking him about his philosophy.  Most of it was just vague answers saying that he liked to mix up things and do a little bit of everything. He liked to talk about making communication between QB and play callers more simplified.

At Minnesota the offense was very straight forward.  Run Adrian Peterson on first and second down, and then pass on third down if needed.  The offense was a little more conservative than the approach at Kansas City with Alex Smith.  With Adrian Peterson as your running back, there are worse options.  Chris Ponder was the quarterback for most of the time, and he never grew into a good player.

Is he the right fit for Oakland?:

I think if the Raiders hired him as a quarterbacks coach, that this would have been a good hire.  I think he’s solid and even with some fails he’s had some success too, and he’s a hard worker.  The hopes are that he can help David Carr grow into a pocket quarterback that can command an offense.  If he can do that alone, this will be a good hire.  For those that cringed every time they saw Greg Olsen call a play, this is an upgrade by subtraction.

As an offensive coordinator this seems to obviously be a Jacksonville reunion with Mike Tice and Bill Musgrave working with head coach Jack Del Rio in the past.  It’s hard to think Del Rio wasn’t the reason for the Musgrave hire.  Musgrave struggled a lot though so it’s a surprise.

As an offensive coordinator, he was a nightmare in his first 4 jobs and his teams have mildly improved as he has gotten more experience.  He’s never had a top 12 offense and to think that all of a sudden the Raiders are going to turn into juggernauts is hopeful at best.  Let’s face it; it’s a league of talent though and if you have the talent, success will follow.

I think the love for some fans with Mark Trestman was strange.  Trestman never called the plays or made the game plans when Jon Gruden was here; Gruden admitted he did.  Trestman was supposed to fix the Bears and his lack of leadership and passive demeanor was ripped apart by both fans and the press alike in Chicago.  Epic fail.  Trestman wanted the Raider OC job; he said so in the press; but the Raiders obviously didn’t want him and it was a good move not to hire him.

This is another head scratcher in a long decade of head scratching hires by the Raiders.  I like Mike Tice but this one is puzzling. Del Rio obviously feels comfortable with him and hopes that he can help David Carr grow.

I think Jack Del Rio is an upgrade at head coach.  Even though they are a train wreck right now and 3-4 years away from being good, it’s hard to watch the Chicago Bears hire John Fox and DC Vic Fangio; two coaches with Super Bowl experience and who have had a ton of success; and then watch the Raiders hire Bill Musgrave; well, as they say, it is what it is.  The hope is that somehow with the Raiders rebuilding their talent pool on offense, this will work out in Oakland and Carr and the offense will grow with Musgrave at the helm.  I think he may do well for a while and be a stepping stone, but it’s hard to think of Bill Musgrave taking them to the highest level and raising Super Bowl trophies any time soon.

“Why Jim Harbaugh Said no to the NFL & the Raiders, & the Good & Bad Choices for Oaklands Next Head Coach”

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Now with reports pretty much stating that Jim Harbaugh is moving to Ann Arbor Michigan to coach the Wolverines, who are some of the good and bad choices for the Oakland Raiders head coaching position.  Before we get into that, what the heck happened to Jim Harbaugh?

Why did Harbaugh Not pick the Raiders?

Contrary to what Michigan fans will say, Harbaugh is pretty much taking a step backwards for more money. Why would he do that when a Superbowl is so important to him?

Take it for what you will, but rumors are leaking in the local media that the main issue with Harbaugh is that he was sick of the behavior of the NFL players. He wanted full control over discipline and the 49ers told him no.   Last year in an interview Harbaugh ripped into Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks because they had so many issues with PED suspensions and off the field matters. Unfortunately during this year, the 49ers had several arrests and problems that occurred and Harbaugh was confronted with his statements.   He was embarrassed by the arrests and off the field issues the 49er players were having and when the 49ers didnt’ comment at times or just let things go, Harbaugh was the one that had to answer for the behavior and lack of discipline and it made him look like a hypocrite. It made him look very bad and he didn’t like it.   In a local interview he once said that he would never allow anyone that committed domestic violence to be on his team.

In the psycho world of college football; at Michigan; he will be worshipped and paid and given anything that he wants and he will get to work less hours. To think though that he wont be back into the NFL in 3-4 years would be naive.  For the control freak Harbaugh, he will have all the control he wants.  And to be honest, it’s hard to blame him.

Retreads v.s. Young hungry Coordinators:

Years ago before he took the New Orleans Saints job, I wanted Dallas assistant head coach Sean Payton to be the Oakland coach. The Raiders interviewed him and Bill Parcells raved about him but they didn’t hire him. Many Raider fans and media didn’t want him because they said he had no experience.   Unfortunately hiring coaches with experience losing usually leads to one thing; losing. Sean Payton now has a Superbowl ring and the Raiders in 12 years are 57-135 which is the worst losing stretch in 124 years.

I also love when people say, “the Raiders need someone with post season success and experience”.  Well then bring up some names.  Gruden, Cowher, and other analysts are not leaving million dollar jobs where they barely have to work so they can work 20 hour days and never see their loved ones.  Mike Holmgren is talking about the great times with his grand children so thinking a soon to be 67 year old who hasn’t coached since 2008 and had a disastrous front office stint in 2010-12 with the Browns is going to hop up out of bed and be the head coach or full time GM for an NFL team is naive.  Holmgren does like attention and seems to always like to put his name in the NFL rumor mill like Gruden, but it’s nothing more than that.  I see him possibly being a consultant for some time but even then I don’t see him doing anything full time.  It’s easy to want something but you need to be realistic.

 With Harbaugh gone; these are my 4 best candidates to be the Raiders next head coach.

  1. Todd Bowles Defensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals; Bowles is an organized no nonsense guy, who is a great teacher and developer of the defensive front 7. He has the formula to win in the NFL; stop the run and rush the passer. Even with so many injuries this year, Arizona lead the very tough NFC west for most of the year, and their defense again lead the way. The 49ers are already trying to interview him. Maybe he will convince the Raiders to stop drafting so many busts at DB in the first and second round over the last 12 years and concentrate on the front 7.
  1. Dan Quinn Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks.   Reports are that he”s leaning towards the Jets because he’s from there. He’s another tough minded no nonsense guy who isn’t the flashy Rex Ryan type and doesnt’ like the limelight, but man can he coach. Even with many players leaving Seattle, they now are healthy and dominating on defense like they were last year. He’s an ultra aggressive coach who likes when the quarterback is on the ground. Seattle always is hard to run on as well and he’s very well respected by everyone.   They play an intimidating style that makes the defensive fans from the 70’s drool with excitement.
  1. Ray Horton (My sleeper pick); Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns.   How that defense survives with that terrible offense is beyond me. The Cleveland 3 and outs. Horton has an uncanny knack for evaluating talent and is a great builder of defenses.   Another tough minded guy who is ultra aggressive. He was a finalist last year for the Arizona job which shows how much people think of him.   He’s a diamond in the rough but with Cleveland’s pathetic offense and ownership, he’s not getting the credit he deserves.
  1. Darrell Bevell: Offensive Coordinator, Seattle. Bevell is more laid back than the other 3 but he was the one that talked Pete Carroll into drafting Russell Wilson. When ESPN ripped on Seattle for picking Wilson, Carroll joked and said, “don’t look at me, he’s the Bevell project”.   Bevell changed the offense twice for Wilson the last two years after Golden Tate and others left the team.   He loves the power running game with a mix in of passing variations. He’s a good play caller and Wilson gives Bevell a lot of credit in regards to his development. Derek Carr could do a lot worse than have him as his head coach.

My worries are that the Raiders will do what they do many times in this situation. They will take forever to make a decision. Paralysis by analysis. The 49ers are already setting up interviews as we speak (or as we read). .

Coaches NOT to consider.

I still dont understand why fans would want a coach that is losing in one place and then think all of a sudden they are going to do great things at another place.  I mean if you have Tom Brady I can understand it, but that is rare.  Losing coaches usually do one thing again.  They lose.  This is a list of those coaches that the Raiders need to avoid.

  1. Rex Ryan, former NY Jets coach: A legend in his own mind that would love to do a movie on himself. He loves the sound of his own voice and at times is more of a snake oil salesman than a head coach. Fans love him because he tells them what they want to hear but they just aren’t listening anymore.  The once darling of the New York media, he is now getting hung by the same people.  As a coordinator out of the limelight he’s very good. As a head coach in 6 years he has only 2 winning seasons and in the last 4 years he’s only 28-38. He’s not a head coach, plus he’s a pain.  His offenses rarely impress and even in his first 2 years they weren’t juggernauts. The Jets get worse the longer he coaches.  Bad sign.
  1. Tony Sporano; present Oakland Raiders coach; I’m not going to get mad. Let’s just say he’s not a good head coach. The Raiders were outscored in their last 3 road games 130-27 and in their last 4 road games they averaged 8 points a game. He was fired at Miami for a reason and his ultra conservative nature is downright annoying. Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler would tell him to open things up he’s so conservative.   And if I have to see him and Greg Olsen on the sidelines any more it may be too much to take. He’s a good football guy; seems like a good person, but he is not a good head coach.  No coach is getting fired from a job to be an offensive line coach so he isn’t staying.
  1. Mike Smith, former Atlanta Hawks coach:

He didn’t seem to be that into the offensive side of the ball. The Atlanta Falcons clock management was awful during his tenure and his record the last two years was 10-22. Not all of it is his fault. I think Matt Ryan is overrated; but Atlanta has become a train wreck with a lack of discipline and mental errors and that has to be put partly on Mike Smith. Some of his clock managements screw ups are of legend in Atlanta.  No

  1. Doug Marrone, present Buffalo Bills head coach:

This would be a waste of time.  He’s a good option but not great so I’d pass.  ESPN put up a story that Bills coach Doug Marrone has a 3 day window where he can go to another NFL team so now some Raider fans have wondered about him coming to Oakland. Marrone has done a solid job at Buffalo and if you take away the defensive injuries the last 2 weeks, they arguably are a good quarterback away from being a top NFL team. Reports back east though say Marrone is not interested in leaving. I find it hard to see him leave a team with a lot of talent; especially with wide receiver Sammy Watkins and that great defense; and go to a team that has the worst DL in the NFL and can’t score. I think he stays in Buffalo so it is kind of a waste of time..

  1. Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos:

The name Adam Gase is beginning to be thrown around the ESPN rumor mill as a possible new head coach in the NFL. Remember whatever some of the experts say to do; just do the opposite.

In 2000 Adam Gase was a graduate assistant at LSU. That means he was pretty much a volunteer coach, which wasn’t that long ago. In his entire life he’s been an offensive coordinator for a year and a half.   He’s an OC on an offense that has a control freak quarterback in Peyton Manning who pretty much runs the offense.   He is throwing behind a really good offensive line and maybe throws to the best group of receivers in the NFL where Wes Welker finds it hard to get playing time. If anyone thinks Adam Gase is the architect for the Denver offense and would be a good head coach then I’ve got a big Orange bridge in San Francisco I want to sell you; real cheap.

  1. Jack Del Rio, Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos:

He’s a local boy from the bay area. He is beginning to be a popular choice for the Raiders job recently.   I’m not a huge Jack Del Rio Fan.   I think he did an alright job at Jacksonville but he had issues too. I like him as a defensive coordinator but as a head coach, there are much better options. His career record as a head coach is 68-71 and in 9 years the Jags only had 3 winning seasons. On the positive, for the most part most of the years he coached the Jacksonville defenses were fairly good but his teams always seemed to struggle offensively over the course of a season. He went to the playoffs twice in 9 years and was 1-2.  I think he’s another one of the well liked ex-players who always seems to be talked about as a head coach because of his popularity..

History of Bad Coaching Decisions by Oakland: Looking back, part of the Raiders issues when hiring a coach was control. Al Davis wanted nothing to do with a coach that wasn’t a yes man. That’s why he and Gruden eventually parted ways. Another problem is the Raiders wait too long to find a coach.   Again; Paralysis by analysis.

What has happened in the past with the Raiders is that they take their time; sometimes a very long time; to pick a coach and in today’s NFL that is a huge mistake.   Usually all of the good coaching prospects are hired fairly quickly, and they are left with retreads or young assistants with no clue to what is going on. Many also have not paid their dues through the assistant ranks and they really are in over their heads when they get hired as head coaches.

If Oakland takes too long, they will end up with another Norv Turner or Dennis Allen type and this time next year they will again be looking for a coaching option. Time is of the essence if the Oakland Raiders are going to rebuild this franchise and they need to take a chance on an up and coming assistant who have paid their dues in the NFL.  The NFL is a better place when the Raiders are doing well.  And to be honest I am tired of writing about all of the losing the Raiders have been doing over the last 12  years.  Happy Raider fans are more fun than angry and depressed ones.