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Marvin Lewis provides Raiders’ Antonio Pierce a veteran sounding board

Former Bengals coach will help guide and mentor the rookie head coach

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington State
Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was on the same defensive staff at Arizona State as current Las Vegas Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce. The pair go way back to their respective stints with the Washington Redskins in 2002.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

With head coach Antonio Pierce and general manager Tom Telesco in place, expect the Las Vegas Raiders to begin filling out (or thinning out) the coaching staff the next few days and weeks.

Now that the top two positions in the Silver & Black are good to go, the big task of landing a new offensive coordinator is likely the next domino to fall. Yet there’s one anticipated move on the horizon too: Pierce’s mentor and former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis joining the coaching staff.

Lewis and Pierce are no strangers to one another. They’ve had the player-coach relationship with the then-Washington Redskins as Lewis served as defensive coordinator and Pierce was a linebacker back in 2002. The two then served as peers under head coach Herm Edwards at Arizona State for three seasons before Pierce landed with the Raiders as linebackers coach in 2022.

So, it’s no surprise when Josh McDaniels was dismissed as the Raiders head coach on Nov. 1 and Pierce ascended to then interim lead role for the final nine games of the 2023 season, the new face of the place and Lewis reunited. The renowned defensive mind lent his expertise to the rookie interim head coach as did Pierce’s mentor Tom Coughlin, the hardnosed former New York Giants head coach who helmed a Super Bowl winner with Pierce as a defensive leader at linebacker. Adam Gase also provided assistance — to interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree — and it was that veteran trio that provided the eager-to-listen and learn Pierce advice.

Those trio of coaches were in Las Vegas in early December as Pierce picked their brains on a bevy of things such as scheduling, scheme, technique, and officiating.

Thus the reports of Coughlin assisting Pierce in the search for coaches to join the Raiders staff only make sense.

Having the well-regarded Lewis on staff would be a boon for Pierce. By appearances, it’s a matter of when, not if. And the 65-year-old coaching veteran provides a solid sounding board for the 45-year-old Pierce. Lewis is keen on what it takes to be an NFL head coach after a 16-year stint with the Bengals were he compiled a 131-122 record in the regular season and a 7-7 mark in the playoffs.

Lewis can provide the real-time feedback to Pierce and that’ll be invaluable as the new Raiders head coach navigates a 2024 season in the AFC West that has amplified attention now that Jim Harbaugh returns to the NFL scene to helm the Los Angeles Chargers. Considered a sound offensive mind, leader, and team builder, Harbaugh’s arrival provides electricity to the underachieving Bolts and getting advice and direction from a trusted mentor in Lewis will help Pierce and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham (who is expected to return to the Raiders fold, there’s nothing out there that says otherwise) combat not only the recharged squad in L.A. but the rest of Las Vegas’ opponents.

Lewis was a successful defense coordinator before hired by the Bengals to run the show. He was tabbed to run the Baltimore Ravens defense in 1996 and spent six seasons doing so. Lewis’ signature season was in 2000 when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. His his defense ranked first in least points allowed and second in least yards given up. Loaded with talent, Lewis got the most out his crew in Baltimore before a one-year stint in Washington in 2002. That following season, he embarked his journey as the Bengals boss. And coincidentally, Lewis was 45 when he got his first head coach spot — the same age Pierce is now as Raiders head honcho.

Author Tanner Colby penned: “You are the sum total of the people you meet and interact with in the world. Whether it’s your family, peers, or co-workers, the opportunities you have and the things that you learn all come through doors that other people open for you.”

Pierce is the sum of the coaching he’s received from Lewis and Coughlin. And he continues to tap into and learn from those two and others. Who knows what holds the Pierce era for the Raiders — whether he succeeds or fails. But if he flops, it won’t be for a lack of trying.