Rod Marinelli embarks upon his second season with the Silver and Black and his 26th as an NFL coach, having spent the previous seven seasons before the Raiders with the Dallas Cowboys, including the last six as defensive coordinator/defensive line coach. Marinelli brings 45 years of coaching experience to the post.
In his first season with the Raiders, Marinelli took over a defensive line riddled by injuries and COVID-19 throughout the campaign, as multiple players in the position group missed games due to both. Nonetheless, Marinelli tutored DT Johnathan Hankins to one of his best years as a professional, starting in all 16 contests for just the fourth time in his eight-year career and compiling 48 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble, while primarily leaving his mark as a dominant run defender in the middle. Marinelli was named the 2021 Paul Zimmerman Award Winner by the PFWA, presented for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach.
Marinelli also coached DE Maxx Crosby to a team-high seven sacks in his second year in the NFL, while also adding 38 stops, one pass defensed and one fumble recovery after starting in all 16 contests for the first time in his career. Crosby's 17 career sacks are fourth-most in Raiders lore by a player through his first two seasons and tied for fifth-most in NFL history by a player drafted in the fourth round or later since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Despite being hindered by injury and illness, DE Clelin Ferrell started in 11 contests and tallied a career-high 10 quarterback hits.
In his seven seasons with the Cowboys, Marinelli helped the club capture three NFC East titles (2014, 2016 and 2018), having advanced to the divisional round in each of those three seasons. Marinelli's defense finished in the top-10 three times (2017-19) in total yards allowed during those seasons, while leading the league in rush defense in 2016 with the fifth-best rushing average allowed (83.5 avg.) in franchise history. In 2019, the Cowboys ranked ninth in the NFL and third in the NFC in opponent yards per game (327.0 avg.), as the team improved its pass defense ranking to 10th in 2019 from its from 13th-place finish in 2018, allowing just 223.5 yards per game. The unit also finished 11th in the league in points allowed per game, ending with an average of 20.1, marking the fourth consecutive season averaging less than 21 points allowed per game.
In the red zone, the defense held opponents to a touchdown percentage rate of just 50.9 percent, tied for the ninth-best mark in the NFL in 2019. It marked the second consecutive season that the defense finished in the top-10 in red zone touchdown percentage. Marinelli's defense was also superb on third down, recording an opponent conversion rate of just 33.3 percent on the season, ranking second in the NFL and tied for the fifth-best percentage in Cowboys history.
Under Marinelli's direction in 2019, the team was one of six clubs in the NFL to have at least five defenders with at least four sacks apiece. Pacing the team was DE Robert Quinn, who led the defensive unit with 11.5 sacks on the year, tying for ninth-most in the NFL and most by Quinn since 2013. In the middle of the defense, LB Jaylon Smith led the team with a career-high 168 tackles.
For five consecutive seasons (2014-18), Marinelli's defense improved its total ranking from the year prior, finishing seventh in 2018 after ranking eighth in 2017. The defensive unit also forced 20 turnovers on opposing offenses for the third consecutive season in 2018, en route to landing three Cowboy defenders' Pro Bowl honors including two second-team All-Pro selections. Leading the way for Marinelli's defense in 2018 was rookie first-round selection LB Leighton Vander Esch. The rookie logged 176 tackles, the most by a rookie in franchise history, en route to becoming just the third rookie defender – and first linebacker – in club lore to be named to the Pro Bowl. On the defensive line, DE DeMarcus Lawrence garnered Pro Bowl honors for the second consecutive season after leading the club with 10.5 sacks. It marked the first time a Cowboys defender had posted double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons since LB DeMarcus Ware did so from 2007-11. Both Lawrence and Vander Esch were named second team All-Pro. Additionally, CB Byron Jones earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after posting a team- and career-high 15 passes defensed.
In 2017, Marinelli's defensive unit finished ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense. Up front, Lawrence finished third in the league with a career-high 14.5 sacks on the season to earn his first Pro Bowl honor. On the back end, the secondary helped surrender just 214.1 passing yards per game, the 11th-best mark in the NFL.
In 2016, Marinelli's emphasis on stopping the run was evident, as the team led the league in rushing yards allowed per game (83.5 avg.), the fifth-best mark in Cowboys history. The unit also finished sixth in plays of 20-plus yard plays allowed (51), while forcing nine more takeaways than the prior season. Leading Marinelli's unit was LB Sean Lee, who posted a career-high 174 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, en route to his second consecutive Pro Bowl honor and first All-Pro nod.
In his second season as the team's defensive coordinator/defensive line coach, Marinelli mentored a defense that ended the year ranked 17th in overall defense, improving from their 19th ranking in 2014 in his first year in the role. The team drastically improved in pass defense, as the team improved its ranking from 25th in 2014 to fifth in 2015 with an average of 227.0 yards per game. Lee paced the unit with 156 stops on the year to earn his first career Pro Bowl nod, while Lawrence led the club in sacks (eight) in just his second year in the NFL.
In 2014, Marinelli took on the role of defensive coordinator in addition to his defensive line coaching duties. As the team's defensive coordinator, the defense made vast improvements in an array of areas almost immediately. The club improved from 32nd in total defense in 2013 to 19th just one year later, while finishing the campaign ranked second in takeaways with 31, the most a Cowboys defense had registered since 2006. The team was led by three players who accumulated over 100 tackles on the season – S Barry Church (110), LB Rolando McClain (108) and rookie LB Anthony Hitchens (100). Hitchens became the first rookie Cowboys defender to record 100 stops in a single campaign since S Roy Williams (127) in 2002.
Marinelli's first season with the Cowboys came in 2013 as defensive line coach. Although losing two of the projected starters along the defensive line, Marinelli still had success with his defensive front. Perennial Pro Bowler Ware tallied six sacks while playing defensive end for the first time in his career and DT Jason Hatcher earned his first career Pro Bowl honor after leading the team and all NFL interior lineman with a career-high 11 sacks. Among the 18 players shuffled along the defensive line that year, free-agent acquisition DE George Selvie finished with a career-high seven sacks under Marinelli, ranking second on the club.
Prior to joining the Cowboys in 2013, Marinelli spent four seasons with the Chicago Bears, serving as the team's assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2009 before spending the next three seasons (2010-12) as the club's assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Over his three years leading the defensive unit, the team forced a league-best 59 fumbles and recorded 65 interceptions, third-most in the NFL over that span, while returning a league-high 13 interceptions for touchdowns. His defense also allowed just 904 points during that same time frame, the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
In the 2012 campaign alone, four Bears defenders (DB Tim Jennings, DE Henry Melton, DE Julius Peppers and CB Charles Tillman) were selected as starters for the Pro Bowl as the defense ranked first in takeaways (44), third in points allowed (277) and fifth in total defense (315.6 yards per game). In 2011, Marinelli coached another four players (LB Lance Briggs, Peppers, Tillman and LB Brian Urlacher) to Pro Bowl nods after the defense finished ranked in the top-10 in six different defensive categories. Peppers logged double-digit sacks for the seventh time while surpassing 100 total sacks in his career.
Before his tenure with the Bears, Marinelli spent three seasons within the division with the Detroit Lions as the team's head coach from 2006-08. Ahead of his arrival in Detroit, Marinelli spent the first 10 years (1996-2005) of his NFL coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first five seasons, he was the club's defensive line coach, spending the last four (2002-05) with the added title of assistant head coach alongside former Buccaneers and Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden.
Over his 10 seasons with the Buccaneers, the defensive line tallied an NFL-best 328.5 sacks. His tenure in Tampa Bay was highlighted by a 2002 campaign that saw the team capture a Super Bowl XXXVII victory led by the NFL's best defense, as the Buccaneers held opposing offenses to a league-low 252.8 yards and 12.3 points per game. Prior to 2019, the team's top-five single-season sack totals all came under Marinelli's tenure (1997, 1999-2000, 2002 and 2004). The team logged a sack in a re-markable 69 consecutive games from 1999-2003, marking a new NFL record. In 2000, 45.5 of the team's franchise-best 55 sacks that year were accounted for by Marinelli's defensive lineman, including a then-club-record 16.5 sacks from DT Warren Sapp. His 16.5 sacks stand as fourth in the NFL among defensive tackles since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Another one of Marinelli's players, DE Simeon Rice, held the next three single-season sack figures with 15.5 in 2002, 15 in 2003 and 14 in 2005.
Before making the move to professional football, Marinelli coached for 20 years at the collegiate level, serving as the defensive line coach at USC (1995), assistant head coach/defensive line coach at Arizona State (1992-94), defensive line coach at Cal for seven seasons (1983-89), while also adding the title of assistant head coach during his final two years (1990-91) with the program. Prior to Cal, Marinelli started in the collegiate ranks with Utah State in 1976, where he spent six seasons (1976-81) as the defensive line coach before transitioning to the offensive line and special teams in 1982. Marinelli's first coaching stint came as an assistant at his alma mater, Rosemead (Calif.) High School, where he spent three years (1973-75) with the program.
PERSONAL: A native of Rosemead, Calif., Marinelli played offensive tackle in college, beginning at Utah in 1968 and finishing at California-Lutheran from 1970-72 after having his playing days split by a tour of duty in Vietnam...As a senior in 1972, Marinelli earned All-American honors for Cal-Lutheran on the offensive line...Marinelli and his wife, Barbara, have two daughters, Christine and Gina, and four grandchildren.