It’s not always easy to find a player or coach who exemplifies what it means to be a great teammate as well as a great man in sports. That is not the case for Las Vegas Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia, who is a unique combination of both.
Rich started his coaching career in 1983 as defensive backs and special teams coach at Wayne State College. The following year, he was elevated to wide receivers and quarterback’s coach.
If there’s one word to describe Bisaccia’s career in football, it’s elevation. After his time at Wayne, Bisaccia was promoted to some more notorious schools, like South Carolina, Clemson, and Ole Miss.
At these schools, Rich had a continuous theme of working as a special teams coach. It seemed he had found his niche, as those squads excelled with Rich at the helm. In 1992, under Bisaccia, South Carolina led the SEC in both blocked kicks and kickoff returns.
Once again, he was elevated. In 2002, Bisaccia joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first year, he helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders, who had been coached by Jon Gruden the year prior. Gruden found himself in Tampa Bay and led the Bucs to a dominating victory over the Silver and Black. Ironically enough, Bisaccia replaced Gruden this past season amid an e-mail scandal late last year. It’s funny how life works sometimes.
Rich would then float around to other positions with the San Diego Chargers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the University of Auburn before landing with the Raiders in 2018.
Let’s fast forward to 2021…
Fast forward to 2021. The Raiders started the season on fire with three electric wins en route to a 3-0 record. Then, something happened that seems to have been a common theme for the Raiders throughout the past 20 years. Things started to go downhill. The Raiders sputtered to a 3-2 record with bad losses to the Chargers and Chicago Bears. To add insult to injury, Gruden resigned for reasons that have been explained far too often to be included in an article about Rich.
As the Raiders were faced with the problem of finding an interim coach, there wasn’t anyone more qualified than Rich. That’s saying a lot considering that there were two former head coaches on the Raiders’ staff at the time of Gruden’s departure: Gus Bradley and Rod Marinelli.
Forty years into his coaching career, Rich finally landed a head coaching job with one of the most notorious franchises in all of sports. Then, things went downhill once again for Las Vegas. Henry Ruggs III went to prison for a DUI that resulted in an innocent person’s death. Afterward, the Raiders suffered some more embarrassing losses to the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs. Sitting at 5-6, many talking heads around the NFL began to question the decision to hire Rich. He had been thoroughly outcoached by Andy Reid and had joined the unlucky handful of coaches to suffer a loss to the almighty Joe Judge.
Bisaccia learned while on the job
New to the head coach position, there were many things Bisaccia had to learn. Something that came natural to him, though, was being a great man and a great leader. It would be very hard to find a coach capable of leading a broken locker room like Bisaccia has done this season.
Further down the line, at 6-7, the Raiders were forced to win their final four games if they wanted a shot at the playoffs and a way to avoid a second-half collapse for the third consecutive season.
They did just that. Rich helped lead the Raiders to four consecutive wins over the Browns, Broncos, Colts, and Chargers. The Raiders finished with a winning season at 10-7 and a playoff spot. Funny enough, it was the first time that the Raiders would be in the playoffs since Bisaccia, Gruden, and co. killed the Raiders’ Super Bowl hopes nearly a generation ago.
A playoff win still eludes the Raiders
The Raiders lost in the playoffs, and they’re still searching for that elusive playoff win. With that said, this season was far from a failure.
Bisaccia may not be back next season, and there are plenty of qualified candidates gunning for his position. But that shouldn’t discredit his achievements. While he likely won’t keep his head coaching position, the Raiders must keep him in the building for next season.
After the Raiders’ loss to the Bengals, Bisaccia hand-wrote thank you letters to each member of his team, or as he would call them, his family.
Rich deserves a thank you from all of Raider Nation. So, for helping mend a broken locker room, then leading the Raiders to the playoffs, and most of all, being a great human being, because some things are bigger than football, thanks, coach.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images