The Black Hole: Go Inside the Raiders Coaching Search

Found a good read to give us a little insight.


The search for the next coach of the Las Vegas Raiders is intense. People don't care what I think. They want information close to the process. I reached out to seven NFL executives who personally know for what they are hearing around the league. So, welcome to The Black Hole:

  • The Las Vegas Raiders, more specifically Mark Davis himself, are perhaps more thorough on this coaching search than any in the league have seen in a long time.
  • The respect from around the NFL for this process has been sincere toward Mark Davis and the Raiders.
  • "I credit Mark (Davis). His dad (Al Davis) was a genius, knew what he wanted, and just did it. Mark isn't dumb, but he isn't his dad. In fairness, how many of us are Al in his prime? Mark is methodical in this. He has impressed a lot of people."
  • The name that has had the most attention early in the process is Jim Harbaugh.
  • The general sentiment from everyone I have spoken to is that Harbaugh wants back in the NFL in a big way.
  • "Harbaugh would be a comfortable pick for Mark, like Jon (Gruden) was."
  • We have mentioned Harbaugh in our reporting but Davis hasn't interviewed him.
  • According to one NFL executive, "Jim is a superior coach. Jim wears everyone out. I do not mean that he is a bad person. He isn't at all. I think the fact in the last few cycles that he hasn't been interviewed should say something."
  • According to several of the people I spoke with, there is a general sentiment as one said: "If Harbaugh interviews, he will get the job. No matter how long this drags on, he can plausibly deny anything in Ann Arbor. But once he interviews, that place has a lot of tradition and pride and that interview will break that relationship."
  • Another said: "I think Ed Dodds, the AGM (Assistant General Manager) of the (Indianapolis) Colts, if he gets the GM job, would be a strong indication of Jim getting a long look. But, Ed is bright, and I am not so sure he would take the job like Mike (Mayock) did where the coach is your boss. Would Jim be alright with a boss?"
  • "Let me tell you this, don't sleep on Richie (Bisaccia). Mark talks to a lot of people. Richie has a ton of respect for what he did. He isn't somebody you hope for, he did the (freaking) thing. Dodds is a Raider kid. I think Dodds could say: 'Hey, let's give him a year and see if lighting strikes twice while he learns the lay of the land, and his players don't instantly hate him.'"
  • Rick Gosselin is considered by many the gold standard for NFL reporting. He is my dear friend and mentor and he described the Raiders situation to me as: "There is a reluctance in this league to hire special teams coaches, which is why KC’s Dave Toub has gotten so few interviews. The last coach to go directly from ST coach to NFL head coach was Joe Judge and he failed miserably. Al believed in history. Mark may as well."
  • There is growing sentiment that the longer this goes on, Bisaccia has some growing momentum.
  • I am not in any way calling him a front-runner or that it is imminent. Based on what I am hearing, it is not. But, Bisaccia is still in the fight, or "Richie," as his friends call him.
  • One NFC executive said: "Richie has won some big fights because he is a fighter, a puncher, and when counted out, he keeps coming. After that KC (Kansas City) ass whipping, how many people saw the Raiders in the playoffs? Richie. That is it, and he put himself right in this."
  • Jerod Mayo is an exciting candidate, but I do not think he will get it. That is opinion based on talking with people. The reason may surprise you.
  • "Mayo is fascinating. He has star power written all over him. When he played, he was fortunate to have such incredible instincts. Few players have superior on-field instincts and coaching instincts. He is so young that sitting in the big chair (head coach) has pressures that players and coaches don't even know about. Working for Bill (Belichick), you do your job. Your job only, and I think that is why some of Bill's guys struggle. They know how to do their job, but the big chair is several jobs. He is getting interviewed not because of his race (Rooney Rule) but because he is good. He is so early in his process that do you give him the reins to a playoff team?"
  • I found this Mayo comparison fascinating. "Everyone knew that Robert Saleh was a star. He wasn't as green as Mayo, but you knew he was a rising star. I wouldn't have given him a job like the Raiders, but going to a rebuilding Jets team was perfect. Great young coach who can learn the dynamics of being a head coach, while they build around him."
  • The sentiment around the league is that the Raiders, already a 10-win team and a five-seed in the AFC, aren't anywhere near a rebuild.
  • "Four years in a row of improved success. So much young talent, and veterans. Does Mark Davis want to be the guy that has now fired TWO (emphasis by the speaker) coaches that have taken him to the playoffs? Whoever takes that job, if he isn't named Bisaccia is going to have a wild and loud fan base calling for his head, and the owner's head, if they don't exceed 10 wins next year and win a playoff game."
  • Josh McDaniels is a name that has surfaced. The smoke around his name is accurate. Got some excellent thoughts on him.
  • "Raiders fans hate all things, Patriots. They learned how to hold a grudge from literally the best. But Josh isn't a good coach; he is a great one. He has been in the big chair, and he is ready. He now knows what comes with that job, and he and (Derek) Carr would be terrific. Carr is a grinder, and he and Josh would fit. He doesn't have to leave where he is. Mark would have to convince him, but with Carr on board, I think if you aren't going to keep Rich, you go with Josh."
  • "Josh takes a lot of heat from people who don't (know) the inside details for the Colts fiasco. That was on the Colts. McDaniels learned things after the fact and ran from that job. If he knew all was well with Derek (Carr), I think he would certainly be interested, and I think he would take the Raiders job with the right GM."
  • "Did Josh get popped in Denver for doing some things that were less that scrupulous? He sure did, but why would a fan base hate the guy for that? Al Davis used to encourage his guys to look for any advantage. Al would have hated Josh, and then tried to hire him. In my book he is a quintessential Raider."
  • Another name I keep hearing and have for several days is Sean Payton. I want to make this clear. He hasn't been interviewed, nor have the Raiders asked. But here is some of the chatter I hear from around the NFL.
  • "Sean needs a new view out his office window. He would love Derek Carr. He has everything you want. Every player on that team with a brain would be sad for Rich but embrace Sean.
  • Sean has enough confidence that he would probably keep Richie if he wanted to stay, which would appease the players. If not, he could say he tried. Mark isn't Al, but he learned a lot from Al. Do you think he wants to be known as the guy who keeps firing guys who make the playoffs? Payton would make sense to anyone in the league, media, and fans. That is a home run. Al traded Jon, and I think Mark would trade for Sean."
  • "Can you imagine that phone call? 'Sean, come run it all. Here is a boatload of cash, pick your GM, moving truck and Brinks truck are at your door. Welcome to the desert."
  • I don't know if Mark could get him. I would think Mark would have to make a call, at least. If Sean wants it, this is easy, you give it to him.
  • So I asked the gentlemen I spoke with if they had to guess who would get the Raiders job, and here is what they believed.
  • "I think Harbaugh. A lot of smoke there, and I think eventually that is where it goes." Harbaugh was the sentiment of three people I talked with.
  • "Josh, to me, is the right guy. If you aren't going to hire Rich, he is the one you get. He is so creative on offense, give him (Josh) Jacobs and (Kenyan) Drake, Hunter (Renfrow), Darren Waller, and Derek, they won't look like the Chiefs, but they will be a super talented Patriots type team when they were in it. Too many people, when one team wins, think they have to look like them. This ain't a beauty contest; you don't have to look like them, just kick their ass. That seems like a great fit." Three people I spoke to picked Josh McDaniels as the person they think will get the job.
  • Only one of the people to whom I spoke picked Rich Bisaccia. That doesn't mean they wouldn't pick him. I asked them WHO they felt Mark Davis would pick. They all thought he had earned it; they just didn't think Mark Davis would do it.
  • "Richie is the guy. Mark will cause an inferno in his locker room if he doesn't pick him from all that I am hearing. Richie is a guy who may not look the part or have the public bravado for the position, but he fills the role. I think you hire a Dodds, give Richie a three-year deal, and watch. If you have to make a change, you didn't upset a ten-win playoff team."
  • "I don't know anyone around the league who isn't rooting for Rich. Is it long-shot? Hell yes it is. But, is it as long of a shot as the Raiders making the playoffs after the Chiefs handed them their ass the second time? Think about that."
  • I can tell you that all seven people I have spoken with feel that if Davis can get Sean Payton, "I love Rich, but if I am Mark and I can get Sean? I think Rich would hire Sean."
  • One last note that I found fascinating from several of these men. "One sign for me is Gus (Bradley) the DC. He is well respected in this league. He hasn't taken another job, which tells me that there is strong optimism Rich could get this job. The longer Gus is in the building, the better chance Rich has."
  • I am not in the room. I am talking to people around the league, accumulating the most knowledge possible. These are sentiments of NFL people.
  • Unless there is some sentiment foundationally rooted in this within the process, my opinion is useless.
  • I continue to be impressed with how Davis is conducting this search. He has a small circle, and they aren't talking; they are working.
  • That, more than anything, should give Raider Nation some comfort.
  • Gosselin added, "Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. Entertainment, in football, is offense and aerial football. Which is why he hired Gruden and may go that route again."
  • To the credit of Mark Davis, no one knows what will happen, and that is what makes this fascinating.