The Las Vegas Raiders have removed the interim tag and named Antonio Pierce as their new head coach. Pierce took over in Week 9 this past season after the firing of Josh McDaniels and led the Raiders to a 6-3 record to finish the year.
Pierce Brings Experience and Credibility
Pierce played linebacker in the NFL for 9 seasons with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, winning Super Bowl XLII with the Giants. He has coached at the college and pro levels, serving as Arizona State’s linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for the past 3 seasons before joining the Raiders this year.
Players advocated for his hire, citing his leadership abilities forged as an NFL player and his engagement with them since taking over. Says star DE Maxx Crosby: “We all have a ton of respect for Coach Pierce and the staff. They did an amazing job coming in in a tough spot and keeping things afloat. We feel really good about the choice.”
Though financial terms are not disclosed, Pierce’s contract is expected to be 4 years, aligning with the typical length for a new head coach.
Given his late-season performance, it was apparent Pierce would return. Owner Mark Davis said upon removing the interim tag, “I have been so impressed with the way Antonio has led this team since taking over. He commands the players’ respect while implementing great strategy.” The front office is aiming for stability after a failed Josh McDaniels tenure.
Offensive Staff Overhaul
With former offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree unlikely to be retained, Pierce will look to bring in a new OC and offensive scheme. Internally, run game coordinator Kennedy Polamalu could receive an elevated role given the Raiders’ rushing success under Pierce. As for playcalling, head coaching candidate Jerod Mayo reportedly would only take the Raiders job if he could call offensive plays.
So Pierce could look externally for an innovative offensive mind who can get more out of QB Derek Carr and maximize WR Davante Adams. A Pete Carroll disciple like Shane Waldron or Rams OC Liam Coen would provide fresh concepts. An up-tempo, unpredictable passing game led by an experienced play-caller is likely coming to help the Raiders keep pace in shootouts.
Marvin Lewis and New Defensive Scheme
Former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is expected to join Pierce’s staff in charge of the defense, likely as coordinator. Implementing Lewis’ 4-3 scheme would better suit Las Vegas’ current personnel, compared to Patrick Graham’s complex system this past season. Lewis’ defenses have traditionally been stout against the run, finishing top-10 there 7 times in Cincy. With the AFC West featuring dynamic runners, improving the NFL’s fifth-worst run defense is critical under the new regime.
Implications Around the League
The Pierce hire has ripple effects on coaching staffs and front offices elsewhere. For example, Patriots LBs coach Jerod Mayo was a top target of the Raiders until Pierce solidified the position. Mayo may now be more likely to succeed the 67-year old Bill Belichick in New England.
As for GM, Dave Ziegler remains leading the Raiders’ personnel department for now. But Pierce could want more input over that side, putting Ziegler’s future in some doubt. An experienced partner like Bill Parcells consulting with the inexperienced Pierce/Ziegler tandem is possible.
There’s also speculation that Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton prefers the Raiders job over coaching the Broncos. Denver would need to blow Payton away with an offer, else he re-connects with old Dallas colleague Dave Ziegler to run the Silver & Black. Ziegler in New England overlapped with Payton during the latter’s Cowboys OC tenure. Time will tell whether new partnerships form out of Pierce’s hire.
Table: Raiders Performance With Antonio Pierce As Interim Coach
|Derek Carr Passing Stats
|Josh Jacobs Rushing Stats
|248 yards, 2 TD
|22 carries, 78 yards
|W, 22-16 (OT)
|307 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
|24 carries, 109 yards
|295 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
|33 carries, 229 yards, 2 TD
|Los Angeles Chargers
|236 yards, TD
|14 carries, 144 yards, TD
|Kansas City Chiefs
|248 yards, 3 TD, INT
|17 carries, 45 yards
|Los Angeles Rams
|137 yards, TD, 2 INT
|26 carries, 99 yards, TD
|New England Patriots
|405 yards, 3 TD
|33 carries, 172 yards, TD
|174 yards, TD, 3 INT
|24 carries, 99 yards
|San Francisco 49ers
|W, 37-34 (OT)
|319 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
|26 carries, 135 yards
Looking Ahead to 2024
With continuity set to build stability, Pierce now tackles improving areas of deficiency that hindered Las Vegas this past season. The Raiders ranked bottom-five in scoring defense, passing defense efficiency, penalties, and red zone TD percentage. Boosting tallies in the latter two categories is critical to keep pace in high-scoring affairs. Pierce is also tasked with further developing young talents like CB Nate Hobbs and WR Mack Hollins to complement the aging core headlined by Carr and Adams. And navigating a likely salary cap crunch that could force releasing veterans.
Of course, lifting the Lombardi Trophy is the ultimate goal after not winning a playoff game since 2002. Earning a postseason spot in the first year under Pierce would mark clear progress. Once in the dance, Pierce and his refreshed staff could author some surprises with this battle-tested group.
Pierce brings credibility, tactical nous, and rapport with the locker room to plot the course back to contender status. The next chapters of Raiders lore are in the hands of the players’ chosen leader. Expect an offseason of collaboration aiming to put Pierce’s aggressive vision into action.
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