Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno. That’s the latin phrase that means: One for all, all for one. It’s the philosophy general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels are installing for the Las Vegas Raiders, however, that’s not to say the new Silver & Black power duo are looking for “yes” people.
Ziegler, in particular, is keen on collaboration. He wants opinions that span both agreement and disagreement. He isn’t an autocrat looking to make the decision solo — even if has final sway over the roster decisions. And why would he? The Raiders new chief personnel man played an integral role in loosening the death grip Bill Belichick had over the New England Patriots. Belichick was the decision maker in Foxborough for over two decades and often shuddered his staff when it came to roster decisions.
That changed in 2021 as Belichick listened to Ziegler, senior consultant Eliot Wolf and national scout Matt Groh, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
“I’m not sure whether it’s permanent or not. But I do know this year was a whole lot different with assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, scouting exec Eliot Wolf and national scout Matt Groh moving into more prominent roles in the aftermath of Nick Caserio’s departure for Houston,” Breer wrote. “... And, really, that’s where the biggest change has come this offseason, which would indicate the boss is listening. To that end, I’m told that Belichick was in the office more in the spring this year than in the past, held more formal draft meetings, something that really hasn’t happened under Belichick before, and reworked other past practices with the help of Ziegler, Wolf and Groh.”
Ziegler, a big proponent of getting as many qualified voices into the room as possible, helped lead the charge and the trio along with Belichick scored quite the draft class last year and it paid early dividends.
So it’s no surprise, now that he’s the general manager in Las Vegas, that there’s no deviation from that course for Ziegler. He reinforced his ways during the pre-draft press conference last week.
“I think it’s important to understand the coaches’ views on players, and it’s just as important to understand the scouts’ views of players,” Ziegler said. “I think one of the most important parts of that process is not just all of the agreement that goes on, but is when you have some guys you see significantly different. To me, those are the exciting opportunities. Not only for growth as a scouting staff and as a coaching staff, but those are the opportunities where you know you have some work to do to get the player right.
“Those are really good learning opportunities for us, but we want to make sure we have open dialogue with our coaches. We really work hand in hand together with our coaching staff throughout the draft process.”
Two things from Ziegler’s comments above stand out:
1. “Significantly different”. Discussion is solid and dissidence can be a good thing. Differing opinions can add more substance to roster building and offer a perspective not shared by the collective that has the opposite notion.
2. The coaches’ and scouts’ views of players. Like Belichick, the previous Raiders final decision maker was also the head coach and often would go against the reports and opinions shared by others in the organization. Knowing what the organization likes or dislikes about players is a good starting point on roster building.
Ziegler is going to be the final say, but he’ll have the input, data and research compiled by Raiders coaches and his personnel staff as he makes informed decisions — like he has in free agency — in this weekend’s draft festivities.
This Sounds Familiar
Both Ziegler and McDaniels offer little detail and insight on Raider specifics as they’ve engaged in their respective media circuits as we careen towards the draft and beyond. But there’s a particular item both have spoken about that will sound very familiar to what the brain trust that preceded Ziegler and McDaniels harped upon: High character.
“For us, a lot of it starts with – it’s person. ... Good people, good character traits, people who are willing to work with others, people who are selfless, people who are team-oriented, those are really important things to us,” Ziegler noted said. “People that love football, people that are good teammates, people that have football intelligence — those all calculate into low maintenance individuals. And the more low maintenance individuals you have, you’re not expounding energy into different areas and you can just focus on getting better and winning.
“Those are really some of the core criteria when we start to talk about a player. Whether that player is going to be a fit for the Raiders or not — forget about the talent and all those type of things — those areas have to make sense first and then you graduate on to skillset and the value.”
The low maintenance part of having high character individuals on your roster is a definite highlight. That said, don’t expect Ziegler to bypass immensely talented prospects or veteran players because they don’t meet the character threshold alone. Any team can espouse about character all day long, but a strong and grounded organization can remedy that, as long as the talent is there. It’s always going to be about “Just Win, Baby.”