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Raiders’ brain trust on the same page

Like Dave Ziegler, Josh McDaniels not a fan of drafting or signing players based purely on need

New England Patriots v Philadelphia Eagles
It’s not surprising to hear Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, right, say drafting or signing players for need can be a mistake. Good friend and Raiders general manager Dave Zielger believes the same thing.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Every NFL team has roster needs. The Las Vegas Raiders are no different in that regard. The new Silver & Black brain trust of head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler are waist-deep in the process of addressing the team’s necessities.

What’s beneficial for the Raiders is that combination of head coach and general manager are tight with one another. Both have mutual respect, loyalty and a bond that is strong, but will be thoroughly tested. McDaniels has noted he and Zielger don’t always see eye-to-eye, but are working towards the betterment of the Silver & Black — together.

The duo’s biggest bang of the offseason was addressing the dire need for a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver and trading for wide receiver Davante Adams earlier this month. The acquisition harkens back to what both Ziegler and McDaniels said from the get-go: They will do anything to improve the Raiders roster. In order to land Adams and reunite him with college quarterback and teammate Derek Carr, Vegas had to part with the No. 22 and No. 53 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.

The notion of need once arose again for the Raiders on Monday. This time, McDaniels talked about need when asked specifically about the Raiders offensive line during his media availability at the NFL owners meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.

“If we can improve any position on the team we’ll do so but we certainly don’t want to go out there and just you know, draft for need or you sign for need. I mean if you make mistakes you don’t really make yourself better you know what I mean?,” McDaniels noted. “So if there’s a good fit at any position — offensive line, defensive line, corner, receiver, tight end — whatever it is, we’ll try to make the team better in any way that we can.”

That holistic viewpoint will help avoid the pitfalls of getting tunnel vision in terms of team need and thus swinging and missing — wildly. That was unfortunately the Raiders’ case before owner Mark Davis did a sweep & clear of the front office and coaching staff and brining in Ziegler and McDaniels. Vegas’ previous brain trust of head coach Jon Gruden and hand-picked general manager Mike Mayock were apparent habitual need-drafters. The selections of Clelin Ferrell, Damon Arnette, Johnathan Abram, and to an extent Alex Leatherwood in the first round flies in the face of best player available (BPA) and strike of need.

Reese’s Senior Bowl
The combo of head coach Jon Gruden, left, and general manager Mike Mayock was a rollercoaster ride of a power structure.
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It surely looked like that Raiders brain trust was the antithesis of being on the same page. Gruden was final say and took what Mayock and other scouts provided him but went about his own merry way. It wasn’t all bad, of course. But it wasn’t all that outstanding, either.

That way of going about building a team surely amplifies what McDaniels said above — drafting or signing a player to fill a need only makes things worse when said addition goes awry. The Raiders new head honcho and personnel man — Ziegler noted he’ll have final say on the team’s roster — path forward will be one of unison, but more importantly, living in the details. No task will be viewed as remedial or too small.

We’ll get more insight on the head coach’s and general manager’s balance of need and best player available as free agency continues and in the all-important NFL Draft.

But of course, developing said free agents or draft picks is vital to the the success of a football team. Successful teams not only know who to bring in to the fold, but also how to make them better and valuable assets. McDaniels talked about exactly that at his Monday press conference, noting he’s comfortable with the group of players Ziegler has assembled at this moment.

“The guys we have on the roster right now are competitive and we’re going to try to coach them and improve them and that’s our job,” McDaniels said. “If we can’t make the players on our team better then we got to do something different. So we feel like that’s a big role that we got to play and we’re excited to get that part started here in April.”

As we progress towards the draft and then offseason team activities and camps en route to the 2022 regular season, we’ll get more of a window into the Raiders new power structure of Zielger and McDaniels. But it’s a new day for the Silver & Black and the moves the team has made and the anticipation of further moves ahead has created an electric atmosphere.

“We’re going to create our own culture and the culture is going to be determined by the players, the people in the building, the standard that Mr. Davis has set and the accountability that we all have to it,” McDaniels said. “So, we’re excited to work on that. It’s a process, but we got a lot of great people in the building, starting with the people that were there long before I got there. I’m really excited to join in that culture, and then try to further it as we go.”