The Raiders made a big decision after the 2016 season by firing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The team then decided to promote Todd Downing from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. This raises questions about whether Downing is up to the task of handling an offense the caliber of Oakland’s. Downing’s qualifications are extensive, however will he have enough in his toolbox to lead this kind of squad not only to the playoffs, but through the playoffs?
What he brings to the table
Todd Downing has spent the last two years on the Raiders sidelines as their quarterbacks coach after a stint in Buffalo. Before that, he rose up the ranks in Detroit, going from offensive quality control coach to assistance quarterback coach. That particular coaching gig allowed him to make some very interesting friends, which the Raiders found out during OTAs this offseason. Downing asked retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson to join practice and work with the Raiders’ young receivers. Certainly a big move for the first year offensive coordinator, which earned him lauds and praises from around the league.
Megatron’s visit to the Oakland field raised a lot of questions and caused a lot of buzz. The buzz was likely unwarranted but rose some interesting questions about how a receiver the caliber of Megatron could fit into the Raiders organization. Of course, it’s unlikely that the retiree will decide to reenter the game as a player, but perhaps a future coaching job is a high consideration for the legendary receiver. Much has been said about Calvin Johnson’s talents despite being on a Detroit team that was certainly not Super Bowl ready and much of the time not even season ready. His spectacular play and superior stats make it very clear the type of impact this man has on a football field.
So as one would expect, the visit from Johnson made quite an impact on the Raiders receivers, who all had complimentary things to say about Johnson’s direction and guidance.
But regardless of the special guests that he can parade around practice like show ponies, Downing has a show-me year coming up. He will likely still be on the bubble, especially if his offense doesn’t perform as it did last year, if not better.
The road so far
Downing has been consistent in his rise through the league. Since his starting gig in Minnesota in 2003, he has risen from football systems analyst through a couple of defensive coaching positions to add to his resume, and ultimately landing with Oakland as the head quarterbacks coach. Now he’s been promoted to the highest coaching position on the offensive side of the ball, second highest position in the land of football.
All of these qualifications and the systems that he’s been able to work in certainly give him a leg up to be able to control and manage a team like the Oakland Raiders and their phenomenal offense. But until the rubber hits the road, you just never know what you’re going to get.
With a new leader at the helm of the offense, the Raiders may have to make some adjustments, especially given a lot of the offseason talent that they’ve added. Luckily most of the team has worked together for a few years now. And seeing what Downing has done with young quarterback Derek Carr, who we’ve all watched develop into an MVP candidate, certainly shows promise. It also shows a propensity for brilliance.
The season is almost upon us so the question will be answered soon. Downing should have a handle on his objective, and all signs point to him being able to take the reigns with authority. Let’s hope so, as the Raiders can’t afford a drop in their offense, especially with the defense still in shambles.