Downing replaces Bill Musgrave, whose contract with the team expired. He worked as the team's quarterbacks coach over the last two years.
John Middlekauff, who co-hosts the Haberman and Middlekauff Podcast, reported the Raiders worried about losing the 36-year-old to another team, which is why they let Musgrave go. Middlekauff listed the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars as teams that were looking to potentially hire Downing.
Downing has earned praise for his work with quarterback Derek Carr. At the end of the 2015 season, Pro Football Focus' Neil Hornsby listed Downing as the top quarterbacks coach in the league:
While people saw talent in rookie QB Derek Carr, he was still our 38th of 39 ranked quarterback in 2014. His deep and underneath game was significantly flawed, and his ability to read blitzes remained poor. That completely changed in 2015, turning into a borderline top-10 signal caller whose deep game has improved out of all recognition, with a penchant for taking on extra rushers—his QB rating when blitzed is now 108.7. Downing deserves credit for his part in turning Carr from a borderline case to a franchise-worthy player.
Under Downing's tutelage, Carr took a big step forward in 2016. Before suffering a season-ending leg injury in Week 16, he threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions, playing a large role in helping the Raiders win 12 games—their most in the regular season since 2000.
George Takata of KSEE in Fresno, California, thought retaining Downing was a smart move:
In an ideal world, Oakland would've been able to keep both Musgrave and Downing. However, it was only a matter of time before Downing moved to greener pastures. Not only is he younger than Musgrave (49), but he's also had a closer working relationship with Carr.
With the choice between Musgrave and Downing, the Raiders' long-term future should be in better hands with Downing on the staff.