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Raiders preseason: Josh McDaniels is loving being part of Raider Nation

New coach is having time of his life

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Josh McDaniels
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Josh McDaniels has been in the NFL for almost half of his life.

The first-year Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach first entered the league in 2001 as a personal assistant in New England. Fast forward 21 years and six Super Bowl rings later, McDaniels, 46, is starting an exciting new chapter in Las Vegas, his second turn as a head coach after a disappointing 28-game tenure in Denver that ended abruptly 12 years ago.

As he begins his Raiders’ journey, McDaniels has made a point to enjoy every step of the way. This week, McDaniels has gushed about his early Raiders’ career, calling it a unique NFL experience. He was blown away by the fan reception on Sunday when he made his Allegiant Stadium debut in a 26-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’ve been around a lot of preseason games over 22 years, and I don’t remember one feeling like this. I would just say that the reception from our fans, getting to know Raider Nation the way that you see them now, it’s just different,” McDaniels said. “I’ve competed against them a handful of times in my time in the NFL, but now to kind of be on the same side, you understand why it is what it is. I’m lucky and blessed to be the head coach here. That is the best atmosphere in a preseason game that I’ve ever been a part of. And that’s easy to say that, clearly. I can’t wait to play another time in here, and then get to the regular season, and have the opportunity to do it for real in the regular games. Just what a great, passionate, fanbase to have. And to have the girls here, and my son on the sideline. It was a special day.”

Prior to his first game in Las Vegas, McDaniels took the Raiders to play against Jacksonville in the Hall of Fame Game in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 4. It was his first Hall of Fame game, which was played in the same stadium he quarterbacked his high school team in. His father, Thom, was his coach then and about 100 family members and friends were on hand in Canton for the Jaguars’ game.

McDaniels said he has made a point of soaking these experiences in.

“I think at this time in my life, in my career - not that I’m super old - but I have been around, this is my third decade in the NFL, and I think I’m appreciating the things that you have right in front of you each day,” McDaniels said. “The people that work here are tremendous. I can’t say enough about the people in our building in our organization. The people that Mark (Davis) has put here. We have such great support. And then going to the stadium as today, the reception from the moment you drive into the parking lot, it’s just unique to me.

“So, I really enjoyed (Sunday). I can see why so many people, players would want to play here and enjoy this kind of atmosphere and the kind of support that we receive from our fan base. So yeah, it’s important I think at this stage in your life to make sure that you at least stop and are aware of how cool some of the things are that we get to experience, because if you don’t do that, when it’s all said and done you’ll probably regret the fact that you didn’t take a little time to just acknowledge the journey. If you don’t enjoy the journey, it’s hard to really appreciate it.”

If McDaniels wins big in Las Vegas, the party is just starting.