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Raiders Offseason: The waiting game

If Las Vegas does leave no stone unturned in head coach, GM search, then we may be waiting a while for hires

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Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders fans are waiting anxiously for owner Mark Davis, center, to make moves and hire a head coach and general manager this offseason. If the search is extensive, we may be waiting a while for announcements on hires.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mark Davis provided insight on how he’d handle the offseason search for a new head coach and general manager back in early December. With four games left on his Las Vegas Raiders’ slate, the owner spoke with The Athletic’s Tashan Reed to provide a lay of the land.

Based on what we’re seeing now as the Silver & Black embark on finding a new GM and head coach to lead them in 2024, Davis appears to be following what he laid out.

“I believe the GM has to have some say in who the coaching staff is going to be. At this stage, it would probably be the GM first. I’m not making a commitment to that, but I think so,” Davis told Reed when asked if the owner would hire a GM or head coach first.

While Davis wasn’t definitive then, the way the team is going about the offseason search, it sure looks like a GM comes first. Once in place that person will be in on the search for a head coach.

Las Vegas Raiders Announce Coaching Changes
Champ Kelly, background, and Antonio Pierce, foreground, served as the Las Vegas Raiders interim general manager and head coach, respectively. The pair appear to have the inside track on landing the permanent roles.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

They key caveat here, of course: What we’re seeing reported on social media or anywhere else are items that have “leaked”. Don’t take the radio silence as meaning a team isn’t doing anything. We’ve seen in the past where teams have made maneuvers only for the news to get out later.

But admittedly, the other NFL teams who have vacancies at GM and head coach have been transparent and public on social media using its verified social media accounts to broadcast candidates and interviews.

That said, there have been numerous reports of the candidates the Raiders lined up for the general manager spot and some have happened already. Thus far, the candidates that have hit the ether are: interim GM Champ Kelly, Terrance Gray, Kelly Kleine Van Calligan, Ed Dodds, Trey Brown, and Tom Telesco. Of that group, Gray, Van Calligan, and Telesco are new entrants in the GM race. The others were interviewed the last time Las Vegas embarked on hiring a new general manager.

There haven’t been as many reports regarding candidates for the head coach spot, and that’s likely on purpose. If it’s true the Raiders intentions are to hire a GM first, then it’s understandable why it’s all quiet on the Western front in terms of coaching candidates.

The natural frontrunner for head coach position in Las Vegas is Antonio Pierce, who served as interim head coach this past season. He interviewed with the Tennessee Titans for their top spot. And the Atlanta Falcons requested permission to interview Pierce, too. The Titans dismissed head coach Mike Vrabel, who was a former NFL linebacker with Super Bowl pedigree and a respected leader — all qualities that Pierce brings to the table, too, mind you.

The unknown timeline on the GM hire does lead to anxiety. Especially from a fanbase starved of success and hoping for a brighter light at the end of the tunnel after Davis’ previous searches netted him Jon Gruden as head coach (who paired himself with Mike Mayock as GM) and then the duo of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler at head coach and GM, respectively.

But the no stone unturned approach the Raiders are taking this go around means we’re not likely to hear a decision anytime soon. And that’s not a bad thing. Davis appears more deliberate and doesn’t have a “favorite” or pre-determined choice this time.

But the timeline can always change. If one (or two) of the candidates interviewed for the general manager role knocks it out of the park and floors Davis, that may speed things up.

But it’s perhaps Pierce who said it best in his final press conference as interim coach this last Monday:

“To answer the question about the timeframe, it’s just a process to go through it. I guess I’ll be informed as it comes up,” he said when asked about what his timeline is going forward.

Flip the coin to the GM frontrunner and the assumption is Kelly. He served in the interim role when Ziegler was dismissed and it’s difficult to truly judge his prowess as a general manger in-season.

However, Kelly and Pierce showed valuable synergy and that can potentially continue if the duo land the permanent gigs. And let’s not forget, Kelly had a hand in Pierce’s ascension to the interim head coach role.

“I mean, I knew I couldn’t screw it up. But no, it meant a lot because there’s a lot of people in this building that were probably deserving of it,” Pierce said when asked what it meant that he was Kelly’s guy. “I mean, Patrick Graham was one of them. Edgar Bennett could have been another one, guys that have been there and been in the league and been successful. But obviously, like I told you guys from the very beginning, I took it to heart, I took it seriously, I poured everything I had into the last nine to 10 weeks to try to prove him right and prove Mr. Davis Right, and we’ll see what happens.”

Like Pierce, Kelly interviewed with another team: The Carolina Panthers. And according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore, it went well. Kelly also reportedly had his interview with Raiders’ brass on Saturday for the GM gig.

NFL Timeline

While I understand fans thoughts the Raiders are dragging their feet in terms of Pierce and the head coach search overall, it’s important to understand the team is operating within the parameters set by the league (see tweet below).

Las Vegas appears set to make a decision at general manger and have that person included on the head coach process — which is proper.

The league mandates in-person interviews to occur before a head coach can be hired, and those type of interviews can’t occur until Jan. 22 — when the divisional round of the playoffs concludes. That’s for candidates who are on teams still in the postseason dance.