Antonio Pierce’s honesty and transparency is refreshing.
“Get right, I got five weeks. Get right. If I don’t get right, I’ll have a lot more time off, 52 weeks. I can do the math,” the Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach said during his Monday press conference as the team entered its bye week.
After starting 2-0 in his tenure as the interim boss, Pierce’s Raiders have lost the last two matchups and the team sits at 5-7 overall and in third place in the AFC West. The team has five more games on slate, as the interim coach noted, and that’s five more chances to prove without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the man for the job.
“Each and every game you get better, right? Hopefully,” Pierce said. “Some people say you’re getting worse, that’s cool. Everybody got an opinion, we know what that is. But for me overall, just understanding how we operate, working with Pat (Patrick Graham), working with Tom (McMahon), being side by side with Bo (Hardegree), working with Matt Sheldon with the game management, that takes time. And I get it, I’m racing time now, right?
“Clock is ticking, it’s almost over, I get it. But the best part about it, I know whenever this is over that I’ve gotten better. It’ll be a better AP (Antonio Pierce) whenever that happens again, so I’m fine with that.”
I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a coach who has nothing to lose. By stating he’ll be a better version of himself due to the opportunity afforded to him as interim head honcho, Pierce is looking at the sunny side up of his situation if he isn’t made the permanent head coach after the coaching search is conducted by owner Mark Davis.
With five games left on tap — the first two home dates against the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) on Dec. 10 and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-7 overall as they meet the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos before the Dec. 14 clash at Allegiant Stadium) — the Raiders should coach like there is nothing to lose and ramp up the intensity on offense and defense.
Watch the film, spend countless hours grinding through the mistakes and the missed opportunities and hammer in the notion of “we take want we want.” That used to be the old-school Silver & Black mentality. And Pierce has stated he’s an OG Raiders fan who subscribes to the team’s storied history and mission. The Al Davis variant of the Silver & Black didn’t settle for what other teams gave or presented to them. Those teams went out and took it, took the initiative and attacked.
Granted, Pierce and his offensive play caller Hardegree or neophytes to the NFL game at their respective positions. Then there’s rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell who is learning on the job, too.
But all the more to go out there and put the pedal to the metal.
What have they got to lose?
“You’re never going to knock another team, but it’s Raiders. There are open players. We have opportunities, I’ll say that. There are opportunities there,” Pierce said when asked about the second half struggles in the Week 12 loss to Kansas City Chiefs, the class of the AFC West. “The difference in that game, to be honest, you look at stat sheet, 58 Plays and 58 plays, the time of possession a minute give or take. We out rushed them almost double, red zone they are 3-for-3 and we’re 1-for-3, seven explosive plays over 15 (yards) for us and 17 for them, they just made them in the later part. We started off very hot. We didn’t continue that. And when you play a team like that, they’re going to make the most of their opportunities.
“And Patrick Mahomes and them did that, they did a good job, and that’s the difference between winning and losing, man. Three or four plays in the game, especially when you play a clean game like we played yesterday. There was no turnovers, there was no penalties, it was nothing of that nature. Just Jimmies and Joes, always goes back to that, Jimmies and Joes.”
The Raiders need all the empirical data it can get their hands on to dictate the direction and future of the franchise this offseason. Davis, in particular, needs to know if Pierce is the man at head coach and if Champ Kelly as the general manager is the proper pairing. Pierce is providing the week-to-week impression to make a data-driven decision for Davis and his eventual coaching search committee — if he goes that route again. Kelly’s situation is as little bit more difficult to discern since he’s an in-season GM that can make only a handful of roster moves.
O’Connell is providing the same weekly impression and putting up a ton of film to pour over and dissect to see if he’s an answer or not (or stop gap) to the all-important quarterback position. He’s shown the penchant to make downfield throws with accuracy, and that needs to happen more. Let the pigskin fly. That of course can result in holding the ball too long, and his relative mobility doesn’t make him a threat to run very often — something that needs to happen in today’s NFL (a signal caller needs to be able to throw and run as defenses are getting more athletic and faster).
The bye week is ample time turn the aggressiveness dial to full blast. And with five games left, that should be the play. Not clamming up or hiding in the turtle shell the team has done after starting off relatively well in what would end up defeats.
The jobs won’t be won that way, so why not play with more intensity, initiative, and purpose? Pierce is said to be quite the motivator and rallying the troops, so let’s see that happen.
Wouldn’t the Raiders want to go out in a blaze of glory instead of the timidness that the Josh McDaniels brought to the table?