Gruden’s Grinders: A Final Look at New Coaching Staff

Hayden Nadolny
Mike Trgovac Oakland Raiders

In the third part of a three-part series on the Raiders new coaching staff under Jon Gruden, our own Hayden Nadolny explores the latest hires. We learn their history and what they might bring to the table as a new staff in Oakland.

Derrick Ansley Oakland Raiders

Ansley joins the Raiders from Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.

Derrick Ansley – DBs coach

Had signed a deal to be Colorado State’s defensive coordinator in 2018, but the allure of working under Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther proved too much, joining the Raiders as defensive backs coach in 2018. Ansley was the defensive backs coach at Alabama the past two seasons, working under Nick Saban. Under Ansley’s watch, Marlon Humphrey was drafted as a first round corner to Baltimore, whilst Minkah Fitzpatrick is likely to be a top 10 selection at this year’s NFL draft. Ansley’s college experience will likely help him get the ball rolling quickly with regards to the development of young prospects Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu. The Raiders secondary is going to have a complete revamp in 2018, so Ansley’s coaching will be vital to ensure there are minimal communication breakdowns.

David Lippincott – LBs coach

Prior to joining the Raiders coaching staff, Lippincott had been on the Cincinnati Bengals staff since 2008. From 2011-2017, he was the assistant linebackers coach/defensive quality control coach, working closely with  Guenther (Lippincott was Guenther’s assistant positional coach before Guenther was promoted to DC in 2014). Lippincott does not have experience as a lead positional coach in the NFL, but his inexperience should be offset by the experience of other members of the staff coaching that position.

Jim O’Neill – Senior Defensive Assistant

O’Neill does not have a specific positional coaching role, but is rather a senior defensive assistant. He comes from the Rex Ryan blitz happy coaching tree, which is a stark contrast to Guenther’s scheme which uses little blitzing. The contrast in styles will be intriguing as to how they compliment each other on the field schematically. O’Neill was interviewed for the Packers’ LB coaching position earlier this off-season, and has a prior history of coaching both LB and DBs at the pro level. This should be invaluable for the two young coaches Oakland has at these positions (Ansley and Lippincott).

Travis Smith – Defensive Quality Control coach

Smith has been working as a defensive assistant and defensive quality control coach since 2012. Like offensive quality control coach Nick Holz, Smith too was well regarded by the previous regime. Smith is the only defensive coach on Jack Del Rio’s staff who was retained by new head coach Jon Gruden.

Mike Trgovac – Defensive Line Coach

Trgovac is one of the most experienced coaches on staff, with over 25 years experiences strictly coaching defensive lines at a college and pro level. His last role was as the Packers defensive line coach from 2009-2017. Trgovac was on the same staff as Gruden when Gruden was the Philadelphia Eagles OC from 1995-1997.

The Packers defense was in the top 10 for lowest amount of rushing touchdowns given up in five years (out of nine) of Trgovac’s tenure, while being in the top 11 for sacks in seven years. When you compare those numbers to the rest of the league, it’s an impressive model of consistency.

Trgovac has coached both three and four man fronts and has experience in a single gap system, which Guenther prefers. Getting the most out of the interior rushers to help Khalil Mack will be at the forefront of Trgovac’s to-do list.

What’s abundantly clear is that Gruden’s defensive staff are all very aggressive in terms of the style of defense they have coached throughout the years. Gruden mentioned in his opening press conference that you either feel pressure, or apply pressure. He has certainly built a defensive staff to apply it. Gruden has also chosen not to hire too many coaches on the defensive side of the ball. In recent times, the NFL has trended to hiring more coaches, such as splitting the DB coaching role to both a CBs coach and a safeties coach. The same has also applied to LBs coach (OLBs and ILBs coaches). The minimal “shell” staff should reduce the chances for communication breakdowns, keeping everyone on the same page as the players learn a new scheme under Guenther.

Byron Storer – Assistant Special Teams coach

Hand picked by special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia to assist special teams coaching. Has worked previously with Bisaccia in 2010 with Tampa Bay and again in 2012 with San Diego. His last year of coaching was as an assistant linebackers coach for the Chargers in 2013. Hopefully there isn’t too much rust despite the five-year hiatus from the coaching ranks.

Dave Razzano – Director of Football Research

It’s hard to comment on Razzano’s appointment from an analytical point of view simply because no one on the outside of Raiders HQ actually knows what the “Director of Football Research” job title actually entails. It is a new position which had previously not existed in the entirety of Reggie McKenzie’s tenure as general manager.

Razzano has over 25 years of experience as a pro and college level scout. He has been known to have a lot of obscure takes on players, and certainly is not just a ‘yes man.’ 

There have been rumours that Gruden has wanted to bring in ‘his guy’ into the football operations department to work alongside McKenzie. Two potential people linked with that role were Elliot Wolf and Brian Heimerdinger. It remains unclear as to whether Razzano is filling this job title, or whether his position is independent of these rumours.