Things can change in the blink of an eye. And when it comes to Josh McDaniels and the Las Vegas Raiders, that blink happened late last night. While most of the football world was resting from a long day of NFL trade deadline stories, Raiders owner Mark Davis was making franchise-changing decisions.
At just about 10 p.m. PDT, it was announced that Las Vegas would be relieving both McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler from their duties.
With the changing of the guard came the move to put a new man in charge to run the team, and that will be Raiders linebacker coach Antonio Pierce. This is Pierce’s first crack at being a head coach, but he has had years of playing and coaching experience in the NFL. Let’s take a closer look at the interim head coach out in Las Vegas.
Who Is Antonio Pierce?
Pierce was born in Long Beach, California, on Oct. 26, 1978. He played nine seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, where he won a Super Bowl playing for the New York Giants.
Pierce went undrafted and was signed by Washington after playing college football for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
During Pierce’s time in the NFL, he went to one Pro Bowl and tallied 686 tackles, nine sacks, and seven interceptions. He announced his retirement from football on July 8, 2010, and then decided that he would begin his career as an NFL analyst for ESPN.
Pierce’s Coaching Career
After four years working for ESPN as an analyst, Pierce went back to his roots and moved on to coaching football. He got his first job as the head coach of Long Beach Polytechnic High School at the start of the 2014 season.
After three seasons with Polytech, Pierce decided to take his talents to his alma mater and became the linebackers coach at ASU for the 2017 season. After two seasons as the Sun Devils’ linebackers coach, Pierce was promoted to co-defensive coordinator alongside Marvin Lewis.
Pierce would remain in Arionza with the Sun Devils until 2022, when he would be hired as the linebackers coach for the Raiders. The coaching career that began at the high school level in 2014 has parlayed itself into Pierce being named Las Vegas’ interim head coach.
New Role With the Las Vegas Raiders
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter pointed out, Pierce will now be the 12th different person (including interims) to coach a game for the Raiders over the past 20 seasons. Unsurprisingly, that’s the most of any franchise over that span.
Pierce will be the eighth different coach for the Raiders since Mark Davis took over control of the team after the death of his father, Al Davis, in October 2011. Pierce joins Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano, Jack Del Rio, Jon Gruden, Rich Bisaccia, and McDaniels.
In their announcement of the McDaniels firing, Las Vegas said that they are committed to undergoing a comprehensive search for a head coach once the season is complete.
What that means for Pierce long term is unknown — and likely contingent on how the team performs with him at the helm. It will not be an easy task, however.
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 some other bad offenses across the league, Las Vegas has plenty of talent at the skill positions with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs, and Jakobi Meyers.
Raiders’ 2023 Remaining Schedule
Despite the changing of the guard, the Raiders still have nine more games to play this season. And with a record of 3-5, they may be down, but they certainly aren’t out just yet.
Of their remaining games, four come against divisional opponents — including both matchups with the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs. The Pierce era will begin this Sunday against a bad New York Giants team that is dealing with a laundry list of injuries, followed by a home date against the New York Jets and a road contest against the Miami Dolphins.
While everything from here on out will be a challenge, there are still opportunities for Las Vegas to get on the right side of things in 2023. Even if it doesn’t produce a playoff birth or a winning record, there is a lot to be learned and gained with a strong showing in the second half of this season.