HENDERSON, Nev. -- Calling it a "very difficult night" after firing his friend Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator, Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden insisted elevated defensive line coach Rod Marinelli would provide a much-needed "new voice" and "new energy" with three games to go in the 2020 regular season.
And while Marinelli officially carries the title of interim defensive coordinator, Gruden would not discuss the team's long-range plans for the position.
"He's one of the great teachers, great motivators, great people that I've met in this business," Gruden said Monday of Marinelli.
"He looks forward to adversity. He thrives in it. I think he looks forward to these challenges, the building of this defense, putting it all together. That's why we brought him here in the first place. It would certainly help if his soldiers got healthy up front. But he's got great experience and has a great amount of experience in situations like this."
Marinelli, 71, was Gruden's assistant head coach and defensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2005 and the Detroit Lions' head coach from 2006 to '08. He was the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator from 2010 through 2012 and the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator from 2014 through 2019. He replaced Brentson Buckner as the Raiders' defensive line coach this offseason.
Las Vegas has addressed the defense in the draft the past two years, selecting defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, safety Johnathan Abram and cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson, Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson. The Raiders also added high-profile players in free agency this year in linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, defensive end Carl Nassib and safety Jeff Heath.
None of it has mattered.
The Raiders entered Sunday ranked 22nd in total defense, 24th against the pass, 19th against the run and tied for 30th in sacks with 15. And, per The Associated Press, in three seasons with Guenther as the defensive coordinator, the Raiders ranked last in the NFL in points allowed per game (28.4), 31st in yards per play (6.04), 29th in passer rating against (98.9), last in sacks (60) and 30th in takeaways (47). Only the Cowboys (400) and New York Jets (393) have allowed more points this season than the Raiders (391).
The final straw came in Sunday's 44-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, when the Raiders, who have lost three of their past four to fall to 7-6, could not generate any pressure against Philip Rivers, getting just one QB hit.
And on a short week, with the Los Angeles Chargers rolling into Las Vegas for a Thursday night game, Abram and linebacker Nicholas Morrow are in the concussion protocol, Ferrell's status is in question after he left Sunday's game with an arm injury, Arnette is still nursing head and neck injuries, and Heath and Collins are on injured reserve.
"We have to do some damage control," Gruden said. "We've got to continue to coach and grind and stay positive and hope that Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley and some of these newcomers can step up and play key roles for us.
"We like our young team. I want to reiterate that. We do have some veteran players that we are excited about. We've got to put it all together."