The Las Vegas Raiders announced that they have fired head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler. In a corresponding move, the Raiders announced that they had named Assistant General Manager Champ Kelly the Interim General Manager and noted in a statement that they are committed to conducting a comprehensive search for a general manager once the season is complete.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that linebackers coach Antonio Pierce will be named the interim head coach.
Raiders owner Mark Davis released a statement, saying, “After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave. I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
Per Schefter, McDaniels reportedly signed a six-year deal when he was hired in 2022. Now, the Raiders must pay the remaining amount on the deal. Contract terms for Ziegler are unclear, although it is likely the two were mostly aligned with the yearly structure.
Update (Wednesday, November 1, 10:45 AM ET) — Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reports that the Raiders have also fired offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi.
Why did the Raiders Fire Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler?
Following their 26-14 loss on Monday Night Football to the Detroit Lions, the Raiders fell to 3-5 on the season. McDaniels’ seat had gotten considerably warmer after the loss, and he became the leader in the first NFL head coach to be fired odds (+200) at BetOnline. That became a reality in the late evening hours on the West Coast on Tuesday.
Despite McDaniels and Ziegler declaring the Raiders as contenders when they took over the franchise in 2022, they stumbled in all aspects of building the franchise.
In 2022, they traded first and second-round picks for a then-29-year-old Davante Adams, and then extended him at $28 million per year. They also gave a big free agent contract to defensive end Chandler Jones and extended the contracts of Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow.
But the Raiders never came close to realizing their full potential, finishing 6-11 in 2022 before using the 2023 offseason to swap out Carr for Jimmy Garoppolo, who worked with McDaniels in New England in the early part of his career.
Working outside of Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme after being embedded in it for six years, Garoppolo disappointed, ranking just 22nd in QBR entering their Week 8 matchup vs. the Lions. He completed just 10 of 21 attempts for 126 yards and an interception while taking six sacks on MNF. He has a 35.2 QB rating and is leading the league in interceptions despite playing just six of eight games.
McDaniels received much blame for the Raiders’ poor start, as his in-game decision-making had been called into question each week of the season. But the Raiders’ 3-5 record doesn’t even paint the full picture of how badly they’ve played.
Las Vegas is 30th in DVOA and 28th in point differential at -61, which is even worse than the Denver Broncos, who lost by 50 points to the Miami Dolphins earlier this season.
McDaniels, known for his offensive-minded coaching style, has overseen the NFL’s 31st-ranked unit in yards per game. Unlike the other bad offenses in the NFL, the Raiders have plenty of talent at the skill positions with Adams, Renfrow, Josh Jacobs, and Jakobi Meyers.
But that kind of performance frustrated others on the team, including Adams, who spoke to the media earlier in October after their victory over the New England Patriots about the offense’s performance and his lack of targets in a game where he only saw two passes come his way.
“I’m sure people are thinking: ‘They won the game, why is there an issue?’ I mean, you see why it’s an issue. Y’all should know who I am, know what I’m about at this point … when you’re a player like me, mentally, my benchmark is not wins and losses — it’s greatness,” Adams said.
“So when I go out there, I expect to be able to have that ability to put that on tape and have an influence on the game. That’s my purpose for being here. I’m not here just to hang out; I came here to win and to do it the right way.”
To his credit, McDaniels told the media that he appreciated Adams speaking out.
“Honestly, great players wouldn’t be great if they didn’t want to try to help the team win in every way that they can,” McDaniels said. “Look, the game is different for them because they’ve achieved a certain status, and they want to contribute every single time that they’re out there as much as they can. So, that’s part of them being them. I would never tell them to squash that. He’s been a great leader, a great influence.
“Our job is to make sure our best players have an opportunity to impact the game, and they can only do what they can do. So, he’s going to do everything he can to help us win, I know that for sure. He’s got a great attitude and mindset. He’s as competitive as a guy I’ve ever been around, and he should want the ball and he should want to contribute … he’s great in every way and this is no different.”
But the root of the frustrations went much deeper than the offense not performing to the level that was expected. Rather, it had been building up for quite some time, to the point where McDaniels offered the opportunity for players to speak up at a meeting last week heading into their game against the Lions.
Did Josh McDaniels Lose the Raiders’ Locker Room?
Whenever you hear about a players-only meeting, it’s usually not a good sign. This past Thursday, leading into Week 8, McDaniels allowed the players to take the floor and voice their opinions on the state of the team.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Adams, Jacobs, and defensive superstar Maxx Crosby were among the players who spoke up in the meeting. But they weren’t the only ones, as others on the roster took advantage of the opportunity.
Pelissero described this meeting as passionate and noted that players addressed various issues with nothing off-limits. One goal of the meeting was to get everything out in the air before their important matchup against the Lions.
And, while it was said that the meeting was viewed as cathartic by the players, it certainly did not translate to the field on Monday evening.
That was on full display in all aspects of the game. But let’s fast forward to the 3:29 mark of the fourth quarter when Adams threw his helmet down in disgust and appeared to have muttered some expletives — all on a night he didn’t even catch two passes.
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 31, 2023
Speaking to media after the game, Adams said, “Honestly, I don’t know what to say at this moment. I truly don’t. Wish I had the words to say something that won’t get blown up in the media and taken out of context. So I’m just gotta, don’t know.”
But despite those words, Adams said he had not lost confidence in the offense.
“No, it’s not hard to maintain the confidence in our offense,” Adams said. “The frustration is when you can’t put it together.”
In another media scrum, Jacobs was a little more blunt — albeit short — in his assessment of the Raiders’ performance when asked what the Raiders needed to do to get the offense headed in the right direction.
“I don’t know, it ain’t my job,” Jacobs said via Bridget Condon of NFL Media.
Now, it won’t be McDaniels’ job either. That will go to Pierce, who will be tasked with regaining control of the locker room and making a push for the playoffs, even though the odds are stacked against him.