Antonio Pierce and Tom Telesco didn’t meet each until Monday, yet they already appear to be willingly in lockstep on a key reality:
They know they need each other to succeed in their new roles with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The process of getting to Wednesday’s introductory press conference to announce Pierce as the full-time head coach and Telesco the general manager In Las Vegas was a little odd. The Raiders began an extensive interview process of hiring a new general manager with the idea of making the hire first. Yet, last Friday the team promoted Pierce, after a scaled-down search, and then decided to hire Telesco on Tuesday after his second interview Monday.
Both Telesco and Pierce said they felt fit a connection Monday when Pierce sat in on his interview. Pierce said he knows he and Telesco, who joins Las Vegas after spending the past 11 seasons as the general manager of AFC West foe, the Los Angeles Chargers, are not always going to agree, but they need each other and they will work well together.
Pierce said he was not making any promises, but he and Telesco are focused on winning the AFC West and then Super Bowl.
“We’re going to check egos and do it hand-in-hand,” the always energetic Pierce said. “If he goes down, I go down. That’s not our plan.”
Telesco said he mentioned in his first interview that he always thought Pierce would be the coach because of the job he did leading the Raiders to a 5-4 record as the interim coach. So, it was never a question for him.
Like Pierce, Telesco said it will be a partnership between the two of them. He said Pierce has a “join me, not a follow me” leadership style and that excites the new general manager.
“He galvanized the players and the fan base and that’s a huge part of it,” Telesco said. “He’s a grinder and you can hang your hat on that as a head coach.”
Their partnership was on display from the beginning of he presser and owner Mark Davis introduced Telesco first, but then quickly brought up Pierce. Two years ago, when Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler were introduced, it was clear that McDaniels was the star of the show even though Ziegler had control of the 53-man roster.
Davis told ESPN on Wednesday that the GM will still have roster control, but Telesco and Pierce will work together.
So, even though they were the expected tandem, everyone is clear that they are on board together and need to work as a partnership. Here are some other observations from Wednesday’s press briefing:
- Both Pierce and Telesco were complimentary of quarterback Aidan O’Connell’s rookie season and the coach said he saw late-season growth and he liked that he improved as the season went on and that he took care of the ball. But neither committed to O’Connell in the future. Figuring out the plan at quarterback is the Raiders’ top on-field priority and it seems, this tandem, is open to upgrading in the early stages of their partnership.
#Raiders owner Mark Davis says Champ Kelly remains with the organization as assistant GM and said he "hopes" Kelly stays: "I think he brings a lot to this organization. I have a lot of respect for him and what he was able to do."— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) January 24, 2024
- Davis told ESPN that he “hopes” assistant general manager Champ Kelly stays with the organization after being bypassed in favor of Telesco. While Kelly is under contract, it sounds like the ball may be in his court. It is likely something that will be settled in the coming days or weeks.
- Pierce was asked what he is looking for in an offensive coordinator and he quickly stated he wants a minimum of 24 points. Las Vegas’ offense scored 24 or more points in just three games in 2023. Pierce went on to say that he is open to several approaches and he did note that not everyone is suited to to coach or play for the Raiders and he wants figure that out. The known current candidates for offensive coordinators are Kliff Kingsbury, Luke Getsy, Zac Robinson, Alex Van Pelt and Mike Sullivan after Dan Pitcher agreed to stay in Cincinnati.
- Telesco said he was looking for fit and the desire to win in a second GM job and he felt that connection in Las Vegas. Telesco said the Raiders’ Henderson, Nevada facility is “jaw dropping” and unlike anything he’s seen in the league.
- Telesco said he believes his AFC West experience will help in his new role. He admitted that he doesn’t have a total grasp of the Raiders roster, but he is confident he will soon. I don’t look at that as a red flag. He’s just being honest. No new GM has the immediate feel for their new roster that they will after a couple of weeks.
Just spoke w/#Raiders owner Mark Davis, who talked about new GM Tom Telesco: "It was always a battle to play the Chargers. They always had good talent, at times, great talent. They scared you. I actually liked him, which was different for guys from other teams. I respected him."— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) January 24, 2024
- Pierce and Telesco were asked how long it took for the to rib Telesco about the 63-21 shellacking the Raiders put on the chargers on Dec. 14.
Telesco was fired the next morning along with Chargers coach Brandon Staley. Pierce didn’t hesitate by saying “right away.” He also said he told Telesco he was trying to score another touchdown and he was going to go for two to get to 71 points. Telesco smiled and said he never saw anything like that defeat.
- Pierce said he went out to the Raiders’ practice field and reflected in the dark when Davis called him with the job offer last week. He said he did the same thing on Halloween when he became the interim coach. Pierce called it a “surreal” experience.