The Raider Nation is waking up, processing the sudden news that Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has fired both head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler late Tuesday night.
Linebackers coach Antonio Pierce has been named the interim head coach and assistant GM Champ Kelly takes over for Ziegler on an interim basis. Pierce becomes the Raiders’ 13th head coach (including interim coaches) since 2002. It’s the most in the league. Pierce, a former Giants linebacker, makes his head-coaching debut Sunday at home against the same New York Giants.
Here are early thoughts on the major news:
McDaniels deserved this:
McDaniels was an awful head coach. He was a bad hire. He showed that as he turned a 10-7 playoff team in a 6-11 mess. this year, The team actually got worse at 3-5. Their only close games were all three of the Raiders’ win. They weren’t close in their losses and even game, McDaniels made poor decision. The culture he built was not good either and he had no answers. In his last act as the Raiders’ coach, he babbled through a Tuesday press conference, trying to shine an awful performance in Detroit the night before. He had to go. He also made history, becoming the first head coach in NFL history to be fired during his second season twice. He was fired in Denver after in 2010 after going 11-17. He made it to 9-16 in Las Vegas.
Ziegler had to go as well:
Ziegler was only hired because he was connected to McDaniels. That’s who Davis wanted (he somehow thought McDaniels was a big catch). McDaniels and Ziegler were college teammates and worked together in Denver and New England. It would make no sense to keep Ziegler after canning McDaniels, so this was a good move. Ziegler was as bad as McDaniels was in Las Vegas. They extended Derek Carr and Darren Waller and than got rid of them. He whiffed on Chandler Jones and their draft classes has been underwhelming. It was time to clean house.
From @GMFB: #Raiders owner Mark Davis made sweeping changes last night, thanks in part to information gathered from meetings with select veterans over the past week to learn more about the culture under Josh McDaniels. pic.twitter.com/yLoCicdqda— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2023
Davis played it cool:
Davis frustrated fans by standing behind McDaniels. Last year, he famously said McDaniels was doing a “fantastic” job. This season, Davis was filmed telling fans who were asking for McDaniels’ to be fried at a game at the Chargers to “smarten up.” It seemed like Davis had his head stuck in the sand pertaining the job McDaniels was doing. He was distracted by his Las Vegas Aces winning their second straight WNBA crown. But, clearly, Davis was losing patience. He reportedly talked to key veterans players recently and didn’t like what he heard. So, he decided to eat the past four years of McDaniels’ contract and cut ties with him. Davis, who took over after his father Al Davis died in 2011, will now hire his fifth full-time head coach. The first four didn’t work. Now, he has another huge decision to make.
Per a source with knowledge, @Raiders are leaning toward Aidan O'Connell as their starting quarterback this week against the Giants.— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) November 1, 2023
O’Connell is the guy:
The new coaching staff is reportedly making a huge change at the most important position on the field as rookie Aidan O’Connell will be the starting quarterback over Jimmy Garoppolo.
Another major move in Las Vegas: The #Raiders are expected to start rookie QB Aidan O'Connell this week and going forward, with Jimmy Garoppolo going to the bench. The promising O’Connell now gets his shot. pic.twitter.com/2lN5Aey5X8— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2023
McDaniels and Ziegler handpicked Garoppolo to replace Derek Carr, who cut in February. Garoppolo knew McDaniels’ system and was supposed to be a better fit for the offense than Carr. But Garoppolo has been awful and leads the NFL with nine interceptions despite missing two-and-a-half games.
Remember, O'Connell is a #Raiders because McDaniels thought he was a fit. He's a McDaniels guy too. He will either end up one of the few bright spots of this regime's stay or he be pushed aside by the new staff.— Bill Williamson (@BWilliamsonNFL) November 1, 2023
Now, O’Connell, who has been spotty in just over a game’s worth of experience, gets his chance. O’Connell was handpicked by McDaniels as well as the Raiders traded up to draft him in the fourth round. He was considered a perfect McDaniels’ type quarterback.
There will be $28.318M of dead money, which includes Jimmy Garoppolo's fully GTD $11.25M 2024 base salary, to release him next year because of a $21.335M salary conversion on 9/5 where voiding 2026 & 2027 contract years were also added to create $17.068M of 2023 cap room. https://t.co/Gj269tElnm— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) November 1, 2023
Now, he gets his chance to show Davis (who probably pushed for this change) he can be part of the future. McDaniels has more than $28 million in dead money after this year with $1125 million in guaranteed money that the Raiders will likely eat. Barring something unexpected, except Garoppolo to be the backup the rest of this season and then be cut by the next staff.
The last time the Raiders had an interim coach, Rich Bisaccia led them to the playoffs in 2021. Jon Gruden was forced to resign after an email scandal with a 3-2 record. The Raiders ended up 10-7. Will history repeat itself? The truth is, this isn’t considered a great staff, so don’t expect any miracles. Davis’ best bet is that the Raiders’ best players feel energized by this move and they will themselves to success. Maybe Hunter Renfrow will resurface with McDaniels not holding him back any longer.
New offensive boss:
The Raiders’ offense, of course, has been awful. It is the only offense in the NFL not to score, at least, 20 points in a game. They have been turnover machines and the vaunted run game has been stifled. So, in addition to McDaniels, offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi has been fired as well. Reportedly, quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree (who has a good relationship with O’Connell) has been promoted to interim offensive coordinator. He will get help from Edgar Bennett and Scott Turner, who both offensive coordinator experience.
What about Graham?
It was surprising Davis went with Pierce as the interim head coach over defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Pierce is in just his second NFL season as a coach. But he was the associate head coach at Arizona State under head coach Herm Edwards at Arizona State in 2020-21. Graham has been an NFL coach for 15 years. Senior defensive assistant Rob Ryan could have been another interim candidate.
An attractive job?
Davis is getting a head start on the process of hiring a new head coach as McDaniels was the first coach to be fired this cycle. There will be other opening so there will be competition. Will candidates be attracted to this gig? Well, Las Vegas is a good place to be with a great facility, great stadium and no state taxes. Plus, having Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby is pretty cool, too. There will be interest.
New head coach and GM?
Well, it depends on who Davis cam lure. If he can get a big fish like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, the head coach will likely have power. Davis has done it both ways as Gruden had power and he has twice had the GM run the roster. So, I bet he will be open to both approaches during his search.
Gruden rebuilt. McDaniels rebuilt and now there will likely be another reboot. This roster was filled with New England-type players. The odds are the new head coach and his staff will have another plan, so positions like quarterback, the offensive line and the defensive front seven may be made over once again. So, expect major roster upheaval next offseason once again.
McDaniels, 47, will likely never be a head-coach candidate again. He very well will work in the NFL again as an offensive coordinator. He can always go back with Bill Belichick in New England, maybe even this year. But how long will Belichick be in New England. Whatever the case, McDaniels can no longer be looked at as a bright, young offensive mind. He’s a two-time head-coaching flameout.
What does Davis needs to do:
The anti-McDaniels. he needs substance and he needs a communicator. Davis needs to provide leadership from his role, moving forward. he has always let his coaches run the show in the building. It hasn’t worked. The Raiders need leadership from the top and the new head coach needs to know that
We’ll see if any #Raiders players ask for their release following the dramatic turnover at the top level of the organization…— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 1, 2023
I’d expect this group to be energized. Yes, there are many players who are here from their New England days with McDaniels and Ziegler. But players are used to change. There’s nine games left and I’d expect them to be focused, especially if O’Connell can provide a spark. Then, everyone will wait to see who Davis hires and what way the organization heads in yet another change in leadership for the Raiders.