There’s not going to be any Patriot Games in the desert. Not if Josh McDaniels has any say on the matter — and he most definitely has sway. As the new Las Vegas Raiders head coach, one can surmise the New England Patriots way would proliferate anything and everything Silver & Black.
After all, McDaniels spent a considerable amount of time — 14 seasons to be exact — under the wing of Bill Belichick. It was McDaniels prowess on offense matched with Belichick’s genius on defense that helped shape the Patriot Way.
And, when McDaniels stint as Denver Broncos head honcho from 2009 to 2010 failed miserably, the now-Raiders El Capitan returned to Bill The Butcher’s outstretched arms.
Thus, replicating what Belichick has done so well in New England is something we’ll see in Las Vegas, no?
Poppycock, says McDaniels.
“I’m not Bill [Belichick] and I can’t be. I’m just going to try to be myself and hopefully I can be a good leader for our team,” the Raiders head coach said during his media session as the team began it’s organized team practice activity (OTAs). “It’s hard for anybody to leave there and try to replicate everything that happens there.”
McDaniels approach in his second go-around as a head coach not only is the proper approach, but shows maturity gained from the face plant of an experience in Denver. He attempted to replicate the strong iron will of Belichick for the Broncos and it didn’t pan out. First and foremost, despite being a prized pupil of Belichick, McDaniels lacked the former’s consistent success that was built over time and culminated in Lombardi trophies. Reverence is an attribute gained and — more importantly — maintained. The latter was something McDaniels couldn’t do in his initial foray as a head honcho. And, like McDaniels admitted, he’s no Belichick.
So why try again?
“It’s really important for them to know that I support them and I’m just here to be a resource and try to help them if I can. If I can’t, then I’m going to learn from them,” McDaniels said. “It’s been great in terms of just trying to put that into motion here. I think the players and coaches know it’s not going to be that way.”
Damn straight, coach!
The Raiders are in dire need of a new culture infusion. Not everything the previous regime was bad, to even think so is asinine, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. There’s a lingering stench in Henderson that needs to dissipate, namely the lack of return on draft and free agents investments.
Raider Nation can mock the poor returns the Chicago Bears got when they traded for and landed Khalil Mack, but the Silver & Black flopped in terms of the players it drafted with the compensation it got for the pass rusher. That stink is worse than what the restrooms in the coliseum in Oakland could ever produce.
But I digress. New regime, new era.
By all accounts, McDaniels is letting his team set a new culture and direction as the team embarks on OTAs and gears towards training camp for an integral 2022 campaign.
“I think we have a good thing going in terms of the direction that we’ve started things in,” said McDaniels. “The football part of it and the belief in how to win and some of the strategy and those kind of things, very much what I know. But the interpersonal interactions each day, the flow of the day, some of those other things that you could choose to copy if you wanted to – we have a lot of great people, like I said, and so being able to give them their responsibilities, they know what their roles are and let them go do their jobs is really important for me.”
The ability to see the entire Raiders organization function in unison during OTAs is something McDaniels wanted to witness himself and thus far, it’s going well. Especially considering the coaching staff was assembled by McDaniels and the roster was set up by longtime friend and general manager Dave Ziegler. It’s a window, no matter how brief, into how well the staff and roster building went and continues.
“I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity like this for a couple years now and I’m so blessed to have the staff that we have and the group that we have working, and the support staff that we have around me,” said McDaniels. “They make my job easy. I’m just trying to keep us on schedule and on time and those kind of things, but I couldn’t say enough things about the staff here.
“The strength and conditioning guys, the trainers, the equipment people that make this thing go – they do a tremendous job. Then our coaching staff is doing a great job. They’re here real early, they’re here late at night making sure all the information is prepared.”
Preparedness is something McDaniels lacked in his initial tenure as a head coach. Not in terms of game plan and the X’s and O’s, but in terms of player management and the intrapersonal relationships the head person has with the roster. It’s one thing to lead a team when things are going well and it’s a different beast entirely trying to captivate and motivate when things aren’t going so well.
Thus far in the desert, McDaniels is leaning on veterans and lead-by-example types like newly acquired wide receiver Davante Adams and pass rusher Chandler Jones. Add into the mix established in-house players like quarterback Derek Carr, pass rusher Maxx Crosby and tight end Darren Waller, and McDaniels has a tremendous core of respected players to lead the Raiders into the 2022 season. The combination of the head coach and players should set a proper tone.
“The effort that they put in, the time that they put in, how much they demand of themselves – which I think you have to do before you can start pushing other people – it just speaks for itself,” McDaniels said of the team so far. “And then there’s a lot of players that are following the right people. Excited about this group, pleased with what they’re doing so far. Still got a long way to go and eager to see how that’s going to turn out as we go through the rest of the spring.”
Not every coach can rule with an iron fist and treat players coldly and get the best out of them. And by all appearances, McDaniels has learned that and matured. Flopping as the lead man in Denver, as painful as it was back then, could turn out to be best thing that could’ve happened to McDaniels. Especially if he can lead Las Vegas to glory.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I feel like it’s slowed down for me, for sure,” he said. “Doesn’t mean anything at this point in time of the year, doesn’t have any bearing on what’s going to happen down the road, but definitely feel a comfort level now in terms of understanding what my role is and how to do it better.”
That’s the absolute best approach for McDaniels and the pieces will fall as they may. For better or worse, McDaniels is going to forge his own Silver & Black path and that’s truly the only way we’ll get to properly evaluate McDaniels the head coach, part two.