Look, I get it. The disdain for anything Patriot from Raider Nation is understandable. Mention Tuck Rule around any Raider fan and the wince and pain is still all too real — all these years later.
But by hook or by crook, the football team in New England did the one thing the Raiders used to do very well: Win. Since a 5-11 record in 2000, the Pats lone losing season was 2020 when the team went 7-9 in the initial post-Tom Brady year. This past season, with a rookie quarterback under center, New England finished 10-7 and making the NFL Playoffs (getting thumped by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round).
Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis wants to have consistent winning seasons. And to do so, in his mind, he had to play Patriot Games and snare his new general manager and head coach from New England in Dave Zielger and Josh McDaniels, respectively.
Many detractors will bring up McDaniels failed stint as Denver Broncos head coach and his penchant for cheating as reasons to why he’ll flop leading the Silver & Black. And that does merit some thought and conversation. But, let’s get this out of the way first: Have you forgotten about the Raider Rules?
I’ll let Matt Millen remind you:
Josh McDaniels at first team meeting. pic.twitter.com/g54c0Q2Lh1— Raider Posts (@RaiderPosts) January 28, 2022
Seems to me new Raiders head honcho McDaniels adheres to something very much Raider, no?
All jesting aside, we can agree or disagree on Davis’ latest hires, but one cannot deny the owner of the Silver & Black swung big on the GM-coach combo package. In order to win consistently, Davis is banking on making his Raiders Patriots West. Even if that notion doesn’t tickle your fancy, if the wins arrive and start stacking up, even the most cynical detractors of the new direction in Las Vegas will reconsider.
What exactly is the Patriot Way? Putting the team first, unselfish style of coaching and play, that puts personal goals on the backburner and the team’s goals at the forefront as first and foremost. Brady is a shining example of that philosophy.
That sounds akin to Just Win, Baby. Doesn’t it?
The Ziegler-McDaniels Tag Team
Without question, the pair are tied to the hip. Ziegler’s ascension through the personnel ranks in both Denver and New England began when McDaniels brought him into the NFL back in 2010. Before that, the duo were college teammates at John Carroll University. So the ties run very deep. While McDaniels flamed out with the Broncos, he returned to New England and Ziegler would join him in Boston, too.
So it’s no surprise to see them together once more in the desert. In fact, the Boston Herald notes Ziegler’s interview for the Raiders general manager gig — the first reported and completed sit-down for the role — on Jan. 21 was also a fact-finding mission for his longtime friend McDaniels.
“If (Ziegler) would have come back and said, like, ‘this isn’t a fit,’ then Josh most likely wouldn’t have been pursuing it,” a league source told the Herald.
Think of Ziegler’s initial visit to Las Vegas as him returning the favor to McDaniels for getting him into the league. McDaniels arrived in Las Vegas at the tailend of last week and everything fell into place over the weekend.
The Bar Is Set Low
In Las Vegas, I mean. Not so much in New England where the standard was not only higher, but met more often than not. Ziegler arrives in the post-Gruden & Mayock era of the Raiders franchise to set a new bar and standard. Fortunately for Zielger and McDaniels, the bar is low right now in Vegas — even taking into account the 10-7 finish and playoff appearance this past season.
Ziegler can only go up as chief personnel man for the Raiders from where Gruden and his hand-picked general manger Mayock were. Now, if Ziegler boisterously sits up at the podium during a press conference and proclaims “having three third round picks is like stealing” and face plants or says he spent the most time ever on a prospect only for said draft pick to be the ilk of Damon Arnette... well... then... (Ok, I said all jesting aside, but I had to had to get one more in there).
By all accounts, Ziegler is an inclusive personnel man who seeks counsel from others by sounding off items and collecting varied input from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, to senior consultant Eliot Wolf and other scouts in New England before making a decision. This approach helped New England rebound nicely in 2021 and land a trio of immediate returns in the NFL Draft, chief among them quarterback Mac Jones taken No. 15 overall (defensive tackle Christian Barmore, No. 38 overall and running back Rhamondre Stevenson, No. 120, were the other two). Through selective free agency and the draft, Ziegler showed he has the mettle to be a decision maker. And he’s already got the natural collaboration with McDaniels.
That history was absent among Gruden and Mayock. When the Raiders former head coach made the TV draft analyst the GM, that was the first professional working relationship between the two. Not the case for Ziegler and McDaniels.
Great Hire right there Love Dave Z one of the guys that helped me get in the league . https://t.co/qT8w9D1ROu— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) January 30, 2022
High Praise & Maturity
McDaniels collapse as the head honcho for the Broncos (11-17 record from 2009-10) garners a lot of attention. And with that experience being his only other foray into the head coach realm, it’s reasonable to ascertain the lack of success may hinder him as a Raider.
Then there’s that episode where McDaniels left the Colts at the alter after verbally agreeing to become Indianapolis’ new head coach in 2018. However, pen never came to paper and no signature on a contract occurred.
But it’s logical to believe McDaniels has grown since the experience with the Broncos some 13 years ago and leaving the Colts hanging four years ago.
“You make decisions in life and in your career that you feel are the best decisions for you and your family. That is certainly what happened then,” McDaniels said during a December press conference this season. “You move forward and do everything you can in your power to make those decisions the right ones. I certainly have no regrets with what has transpired since then.”
Belichick, who’s seen McDaniels on a daily basis for the last nine seasons, provided considerable praise for his pupil this past November, comparing him to confidant and Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“Nick knew what every player on the field was doing: he knew what the guard’s keys were, he knew what the running back was keying, he knew what the nose was doing. He knew what everybody on the field was doing,” Belichick said. “Josh is kind of the same way.”
Even the hard-nosed and profane Gruden became much more of a softy to relate more and work better with Derek Carr. So change is possible.