TAMPA — If his Raiders can come into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday and pick up their NFL-best fifth road win, it would wrap up a rewarding week for coach Jack Del Rio.
Last weekend, he returned to Jacksonville and beat his old team by 17 points. With back-to-back games in Florida, the Raiders trained at IMG Academy in Bradenton this week. As a bonus, he will be back in Jacksonville today to see his son Luke start at quarterback for Florida against Georgia.
"It's fortunate that we're here," Del Rio, 53, said this week. "We both feel very blessed to be a part of two great organizations."
Sunday's game in Tampa also will be a personal reunion. Del Rio's best season of a nine-season run as Jacksonville coach came in 2007, when current Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith were his coordinators.
Smith coached with Del Rio on the Ravens staff, followed him to Jacksonville and calls him "a mentor." Koetter is still grateful to the man who gave him his first NFL job.
"I learned a ton from Jack," said Koetter, who had been a college coach at Boise State and Arizona State when Del Rio hired him in 2007. "I was a pretty organized guy when I was a college coach, but NFL-style, I learned a lot about that from Jack. I was fortunate to come out of college and get with a guy like that."
Five other current Bucs coaches were on Del Rio's staff, and Bucs linebacker Daryl Smith played his first eight seasons with Del Rio in Jacksonville.
"He was a defensive guy — knew what it looked like and how it was supposed to be played, and expected that of you," Daryl Smith said. "He really pushed us a team to be physical, the same traits you see in the Raiders now. We're expecting a physical game."
Last season Oakland went 7-9 and the Bucs 6-10. Both coaches hope to get back to the success they had together in 2007, the last time Jacksonville won a playoff game.
“A lot of really good coaches were in that building," Del Rio said. "We knew that, we knew as a staff that we were doing everything we could to help that team be its best, and that's what each staff should do. So, yeah, I take great pride in knowing that we did a real solid job then, and I'm really happy for the guys because they worked hard and they are good people and good coaches, and I'm happy for them to get opportunities elsewhere now."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected].