Assistant coaches in the NFL usually fly under the media radar. Often, the only time they get any notice is when the players and units they coach perform poorly.
Yet this week, two Raiders assistant coaches have been honored for what they achieved in the 2015 season. It’s yet another indication that head coach Jack Del Rio not only was a good hire himself – taking the Raiders to an 8-8 record his first season – but that the staff he assembled is excellent.
The analytics website Pro Football Focus recognized quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and offensive line coach Mike Tice in its inaugural Positional Coaches of the Year Awards.
Downing was selected Quarterbacks Coach of the Year. Tice was first runner-up for Offensive Line Coach of the Year behind Chip Morgan of the Atlanta Falcons.
Downing was singled out for his work with second-year passer Derek Carr. In its assessment, Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus noted that as a rookie, Carr was ranked 38th among NFL quarterbacks in 2014, writing that, “His deep and underneath game was significantly flawed and his ability to read blitzes remained poor.”
But in 2015, Carr made great strides. Hornsby wrote that Carr turned into “a borderline top-10 signal caller whose deep game has improved out of all recognition.” His quarterback rating when being blitzed was a stellar 108.7.
“Downing deserves credit for his part in turning Carr from a borderline case to a franchise-worthy player,” wrote Hornsby.
Tice, meanwhile, was in charge of a unit that Pro Football Focus ranked as the sixth-best offensive line in the NFL in 2015. PFF graded it No. 2 in pass blocking and 18th in run blocking.
“Nothing sums up the transformation going on in Oakland like their offensive line,” wrote PFF’s Khaled Elsayed.
Downing and Tice are part of a staff that Del Rio recently said has given the franchise “a good beginning” for climbing back into the elite ranks of the NFL. Del Rio said recently that he believes he and his staff will be able to be more effective in Year 2.
“I think you have an opportunity when you’re in your second year to grow and to go to an advanced level of an understanding of exactly what we’re trying to get done,” Del Rio told the media. “I think that goes with coach to player. I think that goes from coach to coach. I think within our staff, we’ll be stronger as a staff and understanding how we do things and how the flow of communication occurs and just the different things that we have to be really good at.”