The 2015 Raiders are far from a finished product, but the current product being showcased on the field is worlds different from that of the past several seasons. Of course, results always start at the top – the organization brought in new head coach Jack Del Rio this past offseason (a new staff came with him as well), and the culture change that he has brought to the team has been evident from the beginning.
It started with a commitment to overhaul the roster to add talent – defensive tackle Dan Williams, linebackers Malcolm Smith, Aldon Smith, and Curtis Lofton, as well as wide receiver Michael Crabtree were no small additions -- and shift many of the holdover pieces to new roles in which they can better contribute to the team. Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle recently discussed the many tweaks that Del Rio hasn't been afraid to make:
"Returning starting linebacker Sio Moore was dumped in the preseason. And though Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. talked up replacement Ray Ray Armstrong, he lasted all of two starts before he was out of the lineup.
There are countless examples, from receiver Rod Streater being pushed down to fifth on the depth chart, to the team's changing up its defensive scheme, to moving their best cornerback, TJ Carrie, to safety."
These moves haven't been change for the sake of change, either. Del Rio and the staff aren't afraid to admit if a move isn't working as planned and go back to the drawing board. That in particular has helped the team fully buy in, as players can see that egos aren't important – it's all about doing what it takes to win, even if that is admitting that an original plan must be scrapped.
"This staff is smart," [Raiders lineman Khalif] Barnes said. "They're not going to beat their heads against the wall. They use what works, and if it's not they may try a few more times in practice, but they are not afraid to pull the plug.
"And they can adjust on the fly during games as well. We've got a staff full of smart guys."
Dan Williams echoed that sentiment:
"They're just trying to maximize the talent available and put us in the best position to win. Coach Norton always preaches everyday that the game is won at practice, and the guy behind you is pushing hard to get more playing time."
Obviously, the jury is still out on where this team is headed, and at 2-3, there is a great deal to work on in order to win the division – Del Rio's often-stated goal – or to get back to the playoffs. But the one thing that's clear? Jack Del Rio and the Raiders aren't afraid to try new things to make that happen.
For more on the mindset of the coaching staff and its willingness to mix things up, you can read Tafur's full piece here.