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Raiders head coach search: Antonio Pierce vs. Jim Harbaugh

Pros and cons of top Las Vegas head coaching candidates

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Antonio Pierce
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As the Las Vegas Raiders’ head-coaching search kicks off this week, it appears the top two candidates may be interim head coach Antonio Pierce and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Let’s look at the two candidates’ cases:

Pros of Pierce:

He knows the roster:

Pierce has been with the Raiders for two years and he spent nine games as the head coach. He has a strong knowledge of the roster and what needs to be done to make improvements moving forward. He would have a nice head start over Harbaugh or any outside candidate if he gets the job.

Players want him:

Many Raiders’ players, including stars Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams have endorsed Pierce. The players love Pierce. They admire his leadership and c the stability Pierce would bring. Of course, owner Mark Davis values the opinions of the roster, but it likely won’t be the ultimate reason for his decision. In the end, players adjust to any decision, but having the support of the roster doesn’t hurt Pierce’s case.

He wants the job:

Pierce famously said he “was born” to be the Raiders coach as he grew up in nearby Compton when the franchise was in Los Angeles. He has embodied the organization and badly wants this gig. Harbaugh on the other hand, always has wanderlust and he is notorious for looking for the next gig. Pierce would be all in on being a Raider.

He’d be cheaper:

This for Mark Davis, but hiring Pierce would very likely be less expensive than reeling in Harbaugh. The Michigan coach may have a bidding war involving several teams possibly including AFC West rival, the Los Angeles Chargers. So, his contract would likely be at or near the top of the coaching pay spectrum. Pierce would not command an usual amount of salary money. For an owner who is still paying off former coaches, this could be appealing.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Alabama at Michigan
Jim Harbaugh
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Pros of Harbaugh:

Proven winner:

Say what you like about Harbaugh, the guy can win. He has won at every stop. He clearly knows what he is doing on the sideline. That’s why he’s much in demand.

NFL experience:

Harbaugh was the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach from 2011-14. He was also the Raiders’ quarterback coach in 2002-03. Yes, 10 years is a long time away from the NFL. Things change and he already saw Jon Gruden struggle with the Raiders after a long layoff. But Harbaugh does have NFL experience.

He knows quarterbacks:

The Raiders’ biggest on-field need going into 2024 will be at quarterback. Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback, knows the position well and he should be able to coach up any new Las Vegas quarterback. It also doesn’t hurt that he would be coming from the college ranks and he knows many of the top college prospects at the position,

He’s a big fish:

Davis always wants a big name. He has tried for Harbaugh in the past. He thought Gruden and Josh McDaniels were splash hires and it’s known in league circles he thinks a big name should be in Las Vegas. Harbaugh would certainly qualify as a big name and give Davis some relevancy he desires.

Conclusion:

In the end, Harbaugh is the flashy hire Davis craves, but Pierce may be exactly what the roster needs. It’s an intriguing situation for sure.