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Raiders coaching search: Pressure may be on roster

If Antonio Pierce is hired, the roster must respond

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There seems to be momentum building that the Las Vegas Raiders will end up promoting both interim head coach Antonio Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly.

That, of course, is the strong preference of the Raiders’ locker room. Players have loudly supported that the in-season replacements for the fired Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler get promoted for weeks. Star defensive end Maxx Crosby made national headlines recently when he admitted that he could potentially ask for a trade if Pierce isn’t retained.

Crosby explained on his podcast during Saturday that he’s been
blowing up” the phone of Raiders’ owner Mark Davis, voicing his support of keeping the current tandem. And it seems like Davis is listening to them.

Davis has been impressed by the interim duo, but he also reportedly has been intrigued by getting a big name in Las Vegas, most notably Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. So, if Pierce and Kelly are kept, a big reason will likely be because Davis won’t want to upset his players and he wants to respect their wishes.

If that happens, though, it will mean one thing — the roster has to come through.

Usually, players don’t have much impact on what happens with coaching decisions as was the case when Davis shunned locker-room support for interim coach Rich Bisaccia two years ago and went outside of the organization and hired McDaniels as coach. So, if Davis listens to Crosby and crew, the players will have to perform and show Davis and the NFL world that hiring Pierce was the right decision.

That means this roster must win and win immediately. They finish 5-4 under Pierce. The winning will have to happen ASAP.

If this team has another losing season in 2024, it won’t necessarily mean hiring Pierce was a mistake. But it would mean this roster failed and that will be on everyone. Surely, if hired, Pierce will get some time to build his program, but players will have to look in the mirror.

Also, if Harbaugh ends up getting hired by the Los Angeles Chargers (which is a real possibility), it will make for a potentially awkward situation for players. If Harbaugh’s team beats the Raiders twice and finishes with a better record in 2024, everybody, Davis included, would be forced to wonder what could have been.

But the reality is if Pierce is hired, this roster will have the opportunity to reward Davis for the decision to hire Pierce. And that’s all the players want.

But it won’t come without pressure on this locker room.