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Two years ago, an interim head coach took the Raiders to the playoffs, a feel-good story that resulted in … the hiring of then-Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who did not even last two seasons.
This time around, owner Mark Davis is acutely aware that a similar situation could be in his future.
While Davis has not specifically stated what interim coach Antonio Pierce needs to do for the full-time job to be his for the 2024 season and beyond, sources say Davis has noticed the energy in the building that Pierce brought when he was elevated following McDaniels’ firing on Oct. 31. While pleasantly surprised in how the team has responded with back-to-back wins, Davis is said to be impressed, sources say.
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And why wouldn’t he be? After McDaniels’ firing, players celebrated like they’d won a game. They then won their next two contests — and some players smoked cigars in the locker room after their win over the Giants in Pierce’s first game in charge.
Players with whom Davis had consulted prior to the shocking move to clean house — including Maxx Crosby, Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams — have been outspoken about the new feel of the building and what that can do.
Will the rest of the season resemble a run to the playoffs the Raiders had under Rich Bisaccia to end the 2021 season? Time will tell, though that team was 3-1 when Jon Gruden resigned, and Pierce took over a 3-5 team this year — a much steeper climb.
In bringing the Patriot Way to Las Vegas, Davis went away from the Raider Way. With NWA-loving Pierce leading the team, there is the thought that the Raider Way is headed back. In fact, Davis noted privately this week that last week’s prime-time win over the Jets felt like a real, true home game for the first time in a while, sources say. That matters.
It’s not just football. The non-football administrators and business-side staffers can feel it, too.
Davis consulted with several team leaders before firing McDaniels, and he does appear to value the opinion of the locker room. If that’s the case, score one for Pierce. Players have commented publicly and privately about how things are finally headed in the right direction and how his motivational tactics are working.
The Raiders play the Dolphins today as the schedule gets more challenging with two games against the Chiefs in the future, as well. An uphill battle, perhaps. But at the least, the early returns have caught the eye of the Raiders owner.
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