Las Vegas Raiders HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler

Trust The Process: Are Ziegler, McDaniels The Men To Right The Raiders?

The Las Vegas Raiders have had two winning seasons and 10 different head coaches over the last 20 years. In that timeframe, the fanbase has been forced to witness a litany of first-round draft busts. On top of that, the organization has bungled cap space along with several epic collapses. Oh, and more broken promises than one would care to keep track of. This is what Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler walked into, respectively.

Forget a rebuild. This franchise needs an exorcism.

After watching his personal “White Whale,” Jon Gruden, be exiled from the NFL midway through his own questionable rebuild, Mark Davis pivoted to the “Patriot Way.”

Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler Presented A Feeling Of Stability

To some, the hiring of Bill Belichick’s disciples was a slam dunk for the Raiders. Bringing in Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler presented a chance to rebuild without any flash, frills, or splashy personalities to overshadow the talent that Gruden and his Czar-level power had. Others peered back into a distant past where a young McDaniels was bestowed the chance to turn the Denver Broncos around. Of course, he was jettisoned after just a season and a half.

Or perhaps they saw the not-so-distant past that showed McDaniels commit to the Indianapolis Colts only to back out in the 11th hour.

Unlike Gruden, McDaniels and Ziegler inherited a team coming off a playoff berth. The new duo kicked off their tenure by trading for the best receiver in football, Davante Adams. They then signed him to an extension to match a pact given to his Fresno State teammate and quarterback at the time, Derek Carr. Las Vegas would also sign vaunted pass rusher Chandler Jones to pair with Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby. Meanwhile, they sent Yannick Ngakoue to the Colts in exchange for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. Add in a new deal for receiver Hunter Renfrow and a young pocket-collapsing defensive tackle in Bilal Nichols, and the hype train was picking up steam.

Offensive genius Josh McDaniels and his right-hand man since college, Dave Ziegler, had come from the hallowed halls of Gillette Stadium to save the Silver and Black. Or so some thought.

The Raiders’ Quick Offensive Regression Leads to Serious Questions

The Raiders would finish the 2022 season with a disappointing 6-11 record. The magic displayed in close games the season-before evaporated. What stuck out most was the team’s subpar performance in winnable contests. If you recall, Las Vegas lost nine one-possession games. They were also the first team in league history to lose five or more games after holding a double-digit lead. Mainstays like tight end Darren Waller and the aforementioned Renfrow dealt with injuries most of the year. Despite his alleged offensive chops, McDaniels couldn’t coexist with Carr enough to keep the ship upright offensively.

Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs would have monster seasons, but the lack of adjustment when the lights were brightest was evident.

Moving on From Derek Carr and Darren Waller, Signing of “Jimmy G” Begins Silent Rebuild

The Raiders’ offense was expected to carry a suspect defense. When that didn’t happen, the ire of Raider Nation moved towards Carr, pointing out the fact that “DC4” hadn’t had such questionable numbers since his rookie season. Despite signing a new deal prior to the season, McDaniels and Ziegler gave themselves an escape lever. Carr would be cut, and former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo was quickly acquired for nearly identical money. Garoppolo is a clear downgrade, but he knows the ins-and-outs of Josh’s sacred “system.”

The Raiders would also decide to move on from Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. The former Ravens practice squad gem was traded to the New York Giants for a third-round pick in this past April’s NFL Draft. Rumors of a possible deal for Hunter Renfrow haven’t stopped post-draft, either. Josh Jacobs, who carried the team for most of last season, still awaits a long-term contract extension.

The excuses are there for the front office.

“Carr failed to get it done over nine years.”

“Darren Waller was too expensive and couldn’t stay healthy.”

“Josh Jacobs plays a position with depreciating value.”

But at what point do we look at the so-called offensive guru and question his ability to maximize proven Pro Bowl talent? Every coach says they want players that fit the image they hope to cultivate, but doesn’t that image include quality, drama-free stars like Carr, Waller, Renfrow, and Jacobs?

There’s Josh McDaniels, Then There’s Brian Daboll

While McDaniels and Ziegler purged the Raiders’ roster at a rapid rate, we saw an example of what happens when a good offensive mind takes over a struggling program and utilizes their skillsets. The New York Giants signed former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to their head coaching position last season. This came after helping Josh Allen become a superstar in upstate New York. Rather than attempt to fit young quarterback Daniel Jones and the offense into a rigid system that didn’t suit his abilities, Daboll would turn the G-Men around immediately, making them a surprise playoff team.

Trusting Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler Is Hard To Do

Ziegler and McDaniels took a 10-7 Raiders team and threw it into a confusing tailspin. Carr was quietly blamed for offensive shortcomings and disposed of. Waller was heaped with praise before being blindsided by a trade to the Big Apple. The defense was stripped to the studs, with only seven members remaining from the 2021 roster (only Crosby, Deablo, Moehrig, and Hobbs are starters).

Even if McDaniels and Ziegler gave the ’21 Raiders’ roster one season to prove themselves within his system, why spend two draft picks and cap space on Adams? Why not use those resources to fix a clearly mediocre defense? Carr had already shown he could excel without an elite target on the outside. Why sign the trio of Carr, Adams, and Renfrow to three pacts only to back out after just one campaign? McDaniels’ scheme is notoriously rigid. Why assume it would run smoothly so soon?

It’s easy to say McDaniels deserves the benefit of the doubt, right? A chance to see his vision bear fruit, but the vision itself is incredibly blurry. Plus, as someone smarter than us once said, ” History is the best teacher.”

*Top Photo: Getty Images

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