‘We All Hope and Want That Opportunity’ – Antonio Piece Begins His Coaching Career 2-0

Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce is providing hope in an organization previously devoid of it. The Raiders’ season appeared over following the firing of head coach Josh McDaniels, but Pierce has Raiders fans and players believing again.

Behind a relentless rushing attack led by RB Josh Jacobs and an inspired defensive performance, Pierce and the Raiders now move to 2-0 since the former Giants LB took over as interim coach. The Raiders quickly moved from life support to the thick of the AFC playoff race at 5-5 on the season.

Signal-caller Aidan O’Connell has evolved from a fourth-round rookie afterthought to the starting QB of the suddenly surging Raiders. Can Las Vegas continue its current winning streak, and what are the odds the Pierce era continues beyond interim status?

What To Make of the Raiders Moving Forward?

Las Vegas doesn’t win pretty, but they play tough, hard-nosed football. Pierce is bringing back the “Raider Way” to the locker room, and the players are responding. Ironically, the two players who exemplified the Raiders’ winning culture on Sunday Night Football were the two players Pierce mentioned in the week leading up to the Jets game.

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The interim head coach heaped praise on Jacobs. “AP said, ‘You’re the heart and soul of the team. Nothing happens unless it comes through you first. We can’t throw the ball if you’re not running good,’” Jacobs recounted. “All those types of things. He just told me the way I play the game with passion, it ignites the guys.”

Pierce backed up his words by handing the ball to his talented back 27 times in Sunday night’s hard-fought victory.

Pierce was displeased with how the Raiders were executing on offense during the first half and voiced his displeasure during a sideline interview while reaffirming his intent to establish the running game in the second half.

“We must establish our will. Straining for four quarters. Execution’s gonna be critical. Protecting our QB, and we gotta back to who we are and run the damn ball.”

Earlier in the week, Pierce mentioned the two players he would “take down an alley with him” were Jacobs and LB Robert Spillane. It was a big night for the versatile defender, who picked off Jets QB Zach Wilson, essentially clinching the victory. After the game, Spillane mentioned a surprise to the football-viewing audience:

“My wife is actually pregnant, so we get to tell the world today that my beautiful wife will have our first baby here in June.”

Will Antonio Pierce Get a Shot at the Full-Time Raiders Gig?

We have seen interim head coaches get a chance at the full-time position in the past, and Pierce has momentum on his side to suggest he may get a chance at keeping the gig beyond 2023. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis has said that he wants a head coach who personifies the “Raider Way,” and Pierce brings the confidence and swagger of Raiders excellence gone by.

Davis said that he is “open-minded to wherever that process leads,” whether that means interim GM Champ Kelly and Pierce “remaining on board or the Raiders going outside” to fill the roles. The Raiders owner realizes the gravity of the situation and says, “We have to get it right.”

Whether Pierce gets the full-time gig depends on how the Raiders finish the 2023 season. Currently, Pierce and the Raiders are a fun, feel-good story, but if Pierce can get this team, led by a rookie QB, to the playoffs, he deserves a crack at keeping the position beyond 2023.

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But for now, the team can simply enjoy the sweet taste of victory, something Pierce has brought in droves. Not only is he filling the win columns in the NFL standings, but he has also started a new tradition of victory cigars, something WR Davante Adams was seen enjoying after beating the Jets.

After the Jets game, Pierce highlighted how important it was to him to see his players having fun.

“That’s the reason why I got back into coaching. As a former player, that’s the one thing you always miss is that locker room feeling, being with one another. That continuity and that I need a pick me up. I needed a little pick-me-up out there, too.

“When you walk in that locker room and see everybody smile, see the celebration, and see all the hard work that we’ve done over the past several days come to fruition, it’s fun. Forever long I’m here as a Raider, as a head coach, s–t, we’ll have a blast.”

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