With the firing of Paul Gunther, the Las Vegas Raiders are officially in need of a new defensive coordinator. The defense has been atrocious for a long time and then some. Whoever comes in will have a lot of work to get done. While the cupboard is not bare, there are still plenty of holes that need to be filled. Here are some of the top defensive coordinator candidates likely to be available this off-season.
Top Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Coordinator Candidates
A name that has been getting a lot of buzz recently is Wade Phillips. He last coached in 2019, where he was the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. Hiring Wade Phillips would likely mean a switch in base formations from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The new scheme would be welcomed for the Raiders after struggling for so long with the 4-3. Either way, Wade Phillips has not been shy about letting people know he is available. His defenses have consistently ranked near the middle to top of the league. He would certainly be a step-up from Paul Gunther.
The primary guy Las Vegas should be targeting is Raheem Morris. This would, of course, be dependent on him not being retained by the Atlanta Falcons. Morris has ample experience coaching at all levels of football. His specialty is with the secondary and pass defense, an area the Raiders need drastic improvement in. He would be the perfect guy to help mold Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen into the lockdown corners they have the potential to be. Morris would also be able to add discipline to Johnathan Abram’s heat-seeking missile style of play. Raheem Morris is a defensive coach that checks all of the boxes.
No one can deny how much more disciplined the Raiders defense has played since Rod Marinelli took over. The team has been defending the run better, and overall looks more energized than it has in the past. Marinelli is probably the most likely choice to replace Gunther, as many believe that is why he was brought in to start with. Even despite the defense playing better, this hire would be an extremely safe play by the Raiders. Maybe it is time for this organization to start being more aggressive in all facets of its operations.
Another popular choice would be the current Tennessee Volunteers defensive coordinator, Derrick Ansley. Ansley’s name has been brought up due to his connection with Jon Gruden. Ansley’s last coaching stint in the NFL was on Gruden’s staff as the defensive backs coach. He is on record saying that he and Gruden communicate on a daily basis. According to Ansley, he considers Gruden to be one of his mentors. Ansley is the type of young mind to bring some creativity and energy to a defense that has been terrible for a long time. He should be second in line behind Raheem Morris.
Regardless of whom the Raiders hire, there will be a lot of work that needs to be done to this defense. The team has not had a pass rush since they traded away Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. To make matters worse, this upcoming draft is not exactly loaded with guys that can get to the quarterback. The Raiders’ best bet is to go heavy defense in both free agency and the draft. They would also be wise to consider cutting some of their overpaid and underperforming free agency busts from recent seasons. Guys like Lamarcus Joyner and Cory Littleton are making way too much money for as little as they contribute to the team. Whatever the Raiders decide, just know that this process is going to take some time. The Raiders’ defense is much more far off from being elite than you may be willing to admit.