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A franchise-altering Sunday looms

A loss in Indianapolis plots Las Vegas Raiders on a new course

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
For all intents and purposes, Raiders owner Mark Davis is focused on his team’s journey to the playoffs. A loss this Sunday against the Colts ends the chase and could plot a new course for Davis’ franchise.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty cut and dry for the Las Vegas Raiders: Beat the Indianapolis Colts to keep their playoff aspirations alive and kicking. Win and get in.

Fall in Indy, however, and a new course is likely plotted for the Silver & Black. A franchise-altering Sunday looms for owner Mark Davis and his desert marauders. Everything likely changes if the Raiders leave the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium with a L.

Davis isn’t jumping into the head coach search foray like the Jacksonville Jaguars are embarking on — thanks to a new league rule that allows teams to seek permission and interview candidates in the final two weeks of the regular season — because he’s got tunnel vision on his team’s playoff chase. (Jacksonville is only contending for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft). Once Davis’ Raiders are definitively eliminated from playoff contention, the focus shifts to finding a new head honcho.

And getting tossed like DJ Jazzy Jeff (of Fresh Prince of Belair fame) from the playoffs can happen to the Raiders this Sunday if they can’t cut the mustard in Indianapolis. It’ll be a tall task for the 8-7 Raiders to topple the 9-6 Colts, even if the horsemen are with or without starting quarterback Carson Wentz (COVID-19 list). We’ll have a preview Sunday morning detailing the Colts-Raiders matchup.

If Las Vegas rolls snake eyes and they no longer have a shot at the playoffs, it’s very difficult to envision Davis maintaining the status quo and retaining interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. The decision to jettison Bisaccia — something that seems inevitable — will cause a ripple effect on the entire coaching staff. Coordinators and assistance perhaps receive the sweep and clear treatment Bisaccia gets. Davis embarking on his third coach hunt, his first two grabs were Jack Del Rio and Jon Gruden, is one of the many dominoes slated to fall.

A win in Indy, however, moves this conversation to Week 18.

Head Coach

The scenarios are aplenty on who could fill the role vacated by Bisaccia, if it comes to that. And no possibility should be earmarked as impossible. Davis is a smooth operator and likes to move in silence like lasagna.

Take the Gruden hire. There was little smoke Chucky would be returning to the sideline and word of Davis’ long-term courting of the former head coach didn’t bubble to the surface until after the hire was made. But when it did happen, it was a grandiose affair.

A new leader portends a different philosophy and terminology. That’s likely something the Raiders are in dire need of, though.

Gus Bradley is an interesting name as it presents a semblance of continuity. He does have head coach experience (with Jacksonville) and he is running the show on defense now.

I’ve got a shortlist of head coach candidates. If and when the Raiders playoff chase ends, I’ll provide you all insight.

General Manager

The second, or perhaps arguably the biggest domino, is this particular front office position. Does Mike Mayock stay or go? The handpicked GM by then-head coach Gruden to provide his draft insights and, in essence, a Yes Man, Mayock is now granted the personnel power he didn’t have when the Chuckster was the head honcho. Davis described the current power structure between Mayock and Bisaccia to be one of 51 to 49, in terms of percentage.

NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA
Mike Mayock getting a full season as general manager without an overlord like Jon Gruden looming over him may be on the horizon.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The dynamic between Gruden and Mayock made it difficult to place the burden of personnel missteps squarely on general manager’s shoulders as Gruden was the final say.

Perhaps Mayock getting a full season as general manager without an overlord like Gruden looming may be on the horizon.

Mayock staying or leaving also causes a ripple effect. Conventional wisdom says a GM is heavily involved in a head coach hire, if not leading it. It’ll be intriguing to see if Davis leads the way or will he defer to Mayock and allow him to pick the next head coach. The other side of that coin is if Davis decides to name a new general manager, will that person be picking the next coach?

Coordinators and Assistants

A sweeping change at head coach means a whole new set of coordinators and assistants. The current crop of coaches at Raiders headquarters in Henderson are Gruden-ites. From Bisaccia on down, each had strong ties with the former coach.

There’s always a possibility current coordinators and assistants may get retained, but often in comes a new leader, a new slate of support is likely to follow. Head coaches tend to prefer surrounding themselves with assistants that echo and reinforce their philosophy.

Not to mention head coaches like to hire assistants they’ve worked with in the past.


Wait, what? Why is this on the list? A fair inquiry.

Derek Carr is mentioned the team will have to make a decision: Let the quarterback play on the final year of a five-year extension he signed back in June of 2017 or sign him to another lofty extension.

A lame-duck contract year is often a shrew motivational tool used by NFL teams and Carr’s 2022 cap number isn’t a salary cap crippler at just north of $19.877 million. So if Davis, Mayock (or new general manager), or head coach don’t want to commit to more years with DC4, they could let the quarterback play out his final year before re-exploring the contract extension sometime during the course of the 2022 campaign.

Or Davis, Mayock (or new GM) or head coach could determine the options to replace Carr are limited and hand the quarterback an extension to lock in the franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Will Derek Carr (4) remain the Raiders quarterback in 2022 and beyond?
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images