It’s clear, cut, and dry: Dave Ziegler is the ultimate arbiter of the Las Vegas Raiders roster. As the general manager, he’s the final say on the makeup of the locker room in Henderson, Nevada.
Yet, to hear Ziegler provide a peculiar answer to the Silver & Black’s quarterback conundrum during a very good conversation on the Bussin’ With the Boys podcast released Tuesday, has to be disconcerting.
“We’re in charge of filling the most important position on the team,” Ziegler said. “There’s some pressure that comes along with that, and however we fill it, it doesn’t mean we’re going to have an immediate answer this year. But, at the end of the day, we have to have an answer in some form or fashion. There’s pressure that comes along with it. That’s also part of the excitement too.”
That “immediate” part is the most telling.
Granted, the episode of the podcast was recorded on Jan. 20, 2023 — before the Raiders officially released Derek Carr — and was released publicly on Tuesday morning, so perhaps things have changed because we’re a full month from the conversation Ziegler had with the Taylor Lewan and Will Compton.
But the answer leaves the door open to a myriad of potential things, including is there a plan at all?
It’s a fair question for a general manger who is already under immense pressure after a franchise-altering seismic shift at the quarterback position. And his response in the podcast only amplifies the burden.
But based on Ziegler’s answers during a pretty fascinating interview, specifics aren’t something he’s going to disclose publicly. When asked about the questions he asks prospects at the NFL Combine and what characteristics he looks for in players in the NFL Draft, Ziegler provided generalities, but played it close to the vest and noted he wasn’t going to provide specifics which he finds proprietary information.
I bet there was some good off-the-record conversation going on between the three, but that’ll likely never see the light of day — just peep the end of the interview where Ziegler asks if they’re still recording. (Full disclosure, my interview recordings from my sportswriter days are chalk full of that stuff, too.)
Did you know Dave Ziegler was a guidance counselor to @TaylorLewan77 in high school before he was the GM to the Raiders?— Bussin' With The Boys (@BussinWTB) February 21, 2023
Download full episode ⬇️ https://t.co/n1cVEzFcX9 pic.twitter.com/Z0LPJHesly
But if we’re to take Ziegler at face value from the podcast conversation, it’s fair to say he believes firmly in his approach and he’ll swing — swinging going down if it comes to it.
“I tell myself a lot, ‘Dude, you’re the GM of the Raiders. You were a guidance counselor. Keep things in perspective, keep it level and enjoy the moment,’” Ziegler noted. “Because of that mindset ... my decisions aren’t driven by just trying to stay alive. The fact that I got to this position and I have this job is kind of wild to think, compared to where we were in 2008, so I don’t let fear of failure or of being fired drive decisions.
“We’re going to swing and we also have a vision of how we want to do things. We’re just going to go and I believe it’s going to work. That’s why I’m going to do things I way I do them. I believe we’re going to win here. I believe we’re going to build something that’s going to compete for championships and ultimately, get us to where we want to go.”
The guidance counselor part was particularly interesting, considering he was Lewan’s high school counselor. Ziegler also cut his teeth as a prep special teams coach. So for Raider Nation clamoring for another Rich Bisaccia-type, you have one in Ziegler.
But, I digress.
Ziegler was also straight to the point during the interview nothing the Raiders “weren’t good enough” at the end of the day to win the close games they eventually lost. He said looking at those defeats, there were three or four plays in each game that didn’t go the Raiders way and could’ve made the difference. How does he and head coach Josh McDaniels go about remedying that?
“I’ll say it like this: I think the thing that’s important to win those close games is you have to have a group of 11 guys that, in those critical moments, can all execute their assignment and be synchronized with each other,” Ziegler said. “And I think at times, we just, we weren’t able to do that. For whatever the reason is. And there could be a lot of reasons to that.
“And I’ve talked about this in other interviews; I think one thing that’s important to me in terms of building the team and improving the team is improving also, I think, the football intelligence on our team. Situational football, situational awareness, and some of that comes from who you’re bringing in, some of that comes from how you teach it. And all those things kind of come together. But building a smart, tough, physical football team that can perform in the critical situations is kind of the philosophy and is something that is really important to us as a Raider organization.”