The hiring of Jack Del Rio wasn’t considered dynamic enough for many NFL analysts. Del Rio, after all, once was a hot commodity, but then became old news after coaching the Jaguars for nine seasons. In 2015, he wasn't among the hottest young coordinators and candidates. Instead, he was considered solid. Experienced.
But in the time since his hiring was announced, Del Rio has been adding others to his staff with much the same qualities. Brad Seely will take over special teams. Bill Musgrave will be the offensive coordinator. Neither is flashy. Yet both have a wealth of knowledge and have tasted success as assistants.
Two of the most important hires are yet to be officially announced. One is Mike Tice as offensive line coach. The other could be Mike Smith as defensive coordinator.
While Tice already has agreed to join Del Rio’s staff, Smith remains a strong candidate. He was interviewed this week but no decision has yet been made.
Tice and Smith, however, are established, longtime NFL coaches who’ve also been head coaches. By surrounding himself with experienced voices, Del Rio is ensuring he gets a multitude of opinions and professionals who know how to do everything from teach, to formulate game plans and schemes to take on unusual offensive or defensive approaches.
Tice and Smith have worked with Del Rio before, and both recently worked together with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville under Del Rio for five seasons and also coached with Del Rio in Baltimore under Brian Billick when the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
As a head coach in Atlanta, Smith was very successful. He was 66-46 in seven seasons and took the Falcons to the playoffs four times. As defensive coordinator in Jacksonville his units were ranked no worse than 12th in the NFL and three times were sixth or better (including second overall in 2006).
In Atlanta, Smith eventually was let go at the end of this past season, but his players universally liked and respected him. When Smith addressed his team for the final time after his release, his players gave him a loud ovation, according to Vauhn McClure of ESPN.com.
Tice, meanwhile, will have responsibilities over the offensive line, which had trouble as a run-blocking unit in 2014 but was surprisingly good at protecting young quarterback Derek Carr.
Tice, a former NFL tight end, is a large presence (6-foot-7) who’s known as a loud, enthusiastic coach and teacher and has had particular success coaching offensive lines.
In the past, Tice has said all his experience – including his firing as a head coach in the league in 2005 after five seasons leading the Vikings – have made him much better. He's constantly learning.
When he was hired by the Bears as offensive coordinator a few years ago, he described his style this way: “At the end of the day, we’re going to have a certain personality and at the end of the day it will be one of explosiveness and one of intelligence and one of rhythm and one of tempo and one of enthusiasm. You have to have all of those to be an elite offense.”