When you have a locker room full of fighters, your team is able to overcome the greatest of obstacles. Take the 2021 season, for example, when the Las Vegas Raiders lost their head coach mid-season, then proceeded to lose their premier wideout just a few weeks later. There was no reason to believe any team could overcome such difficult circumstances, but that didn’t stop the Silver and Black from winning 10 games and punching their ticket to the postseason.
At the season’s end, Rich Bisaccia‘s status as interim head coach had expired, and the Raiders, with their group of men who pulled off such a feat, stood as the most desirable coaching job available.
Now in 2023, the Raiders find themselves in a near-identical situation. Sure, this isn’t exactly the same team that hurdled every obstacle thrown at them two years ago, but it’s darn close. In fact, there’s many reasons why being the head coach in Sin City today is even more desirable than it was during the 2022 offseason.
And now, with Josh McDaniels being relieved of head coaching duties, the job is once again available.
If you’re a coach searching for a team to take charge of, not only is Las Vegas’ open position desirable, but it’s practically a fairytale situation.
From offense, to defense, to city, to owner, and even [lack of] designated QB1.
Seriously – The Las Vegas Raiders head coach position is the most desirable [available] job in football
One look at the Silver and Black’s offensive arsenal will leave any play caller drooling all over themselves.
Back-to-back-to-back first-team All-Pro Davante Adams is the main attraction to the unit, but he’s far from the only star on his side of the ball – heck, he’s not even the only star at his position. Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, and even electric rookie Tre Tucker highlight a receiving core as good as any you’ll find league-wide.
Meyers’ numbers likely won’t jump out at you, but there is one specific analytic that highlights exactly how good the first-year Raiders receiver has been. Of the 29 players league-wide with at least 10 targets when blanketed in coverage, no player has a higher catch percentage in these situations than Meyers (70%). Such unmatched reliability is why Meyers was oftentimes the first read of both Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer, even with Davante Adams on the field.
Then there’s Tre Tucker, who has both the longest passing play (48 yards) and running play (34 yards) for Las Vegas this season.
That’s just the receivers. At running back, you have Josh Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing yards during his ’22 campaign.
Is Josh Jacobs still a household name?
Jacobs’ efficiency as a runner this season has been less than ideal, but most of that isn’t his fault. Per Fantasy Pros advanced stats, Jacobs is averaging 1.8 yards before contact. As fate would have it, the only starting running backs with a lower yardage before contact average are Damien Pierce, Dalvin Cook, Miles Sanders and Najee Harris: all backs who, like Jacobs, are slated as having down years.
Heck, Dalvin Cook lost his starting job, and both Sanders and Najee might be next.
The bigger question is, why is this happening with Jacobs? It’s because defenses are keeping defenders near the box as there’s no threat of a deep ball.
Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown the football 20+ yards downfield 18 times. Only four teams have thrown the deep ball the same or less times than Garoppolo has this season: The Texans, Jets, Panthers and Steelers.
Did you recognize something there? Those happen to be the exact teams each of the aforementioned four running backs play for, that happen to have less yards before contact on average than Jacobs.
Just to keep things transparent, Garoppolo did miss two contests this season, but both Hoyer and O’Connell threw the deep ball one time each during their respective starts.
Finally, there’s tight end Michael Mayer, who now-former Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler traded up for in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Yeah; that’s one stacked offense.
Now, you may have noticed an important [lacking] component we’ve failed to talk about up to this point – the quarterback. The wide receiver, running back and tight end rooms house fantastic players, but there’s an eyesore at the league’s most important position. What gives?
Funny enough, this is arguably the most appealing part for a new head coach.
No quarterback? No problem!
The Raiders not having a solidified QB1 on the roster is, in a weird way, a beautiful sight for an incoming coach and general manager duo.
Let me explain.
There’s no pre-existing starting quarterback who you’re tied to the hip with as a head coach. Instead, with a seemingly-loaded quarterback class coming up in this year’s draft, you have the luxury of chasing the signal caller who you like the most.
Not only do you have a stacked offense for a quarterback, but you get to hand-select your own quarterback to build a future with.
You have safety nets such as Meyers and Mayer for a rookie under center, and big-time play makers like Adams and Tucker. With Jacobs, you have a running back that defenses must respect.
It really is a perfect situation, assuming a coach hits on the player they deem ‘their guy’ at QB.
The Raiders defense only adds to the appeal
Maxx Crosby? Tre’von Moehrig? Talented rookies such as Tyree Wilson and Jakorian Bennett? Yes, please.
I know what you’re thinking, but prospects such as Wilson and Bennett are always appealing, even if they haven’t produced yet. Their god given traits such as frame (Tyree) and athleticism (Bennett) are enough to impress any coach. There’s a reason why Tyree was a top-10 pick while Bennett earned a starting job heading into the regular season, after all.
It was a slow start for this unit, but defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has done a masterful job of coaching since Week 4 and beyond. In Week 4, the Raiders’ defense held Justin Herbert to the lowest passing yards of his career (167) and lowest completion percentage in a game since 2021 (54.2%). They also gave Herbert his first interception of the season.
Jordan Love didn’t fare much better in Week 5, completing only 53.3% of his passes for 182 yards. Las Vegas’ defense picked off Love not once, not twice, but three times.
Mac Jones managed to complete 72.7% of his passes in Week 6 at Allegiant Stadium, but he failed to both throw a touchdown and surpass 200 passing yards. He did, however, throw an interception.
Chicago took advantage of a multitude of missed tackles by the Raiders’ defense in Week 7, but the unit bounced back in a big way against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Crosby’s side of the ball notched three turnovers and kept Las Vegas in a game that, for all intents and purposes, should’ve been a blowout. Thanks to Graham and the defense, the score was close the whole way.
Sometimes, numbers do lie
The real story is the lack of help this defense has gotten from the offense this year, causing numbers to paint a misguided picture. Under now-former head coach Josh McDaniels, the Raiders’ offense posted the third-lowest conversion percentage on third-down (32.58%) with the eighth-lowest touchdown percentage when in the red zone (44.0%).
Altogether, this resulted in the team averaging the sixth-least time of possession (27:42).
Add these things together, and you get a defense that oftentimes started off strong, but wavered as time went on. Sometimes that was due to fatigue, and other times it was simply opposing coaches eventually finding plays that work.
Either way, Patrick Graham and the defense have typically done their job, and done it well.
Raiders owner Mark Davis just wants to win
Now a back-to-back WNBA champion courtesy of his Las Vegas Aces, Mark Davis is eager to taste success in the NFL with the Raiders. More than that, Davis is willing to give whoever he hires as the team’s figurehead all the keys to the kingdom.
Since taking over as the controlling owner of the Silver and Black, Al’s son has hired three different people to be the ruler of his Raiders kingdom: GM Reggie McKenzie, HC Jon Gruden, and HC/GM tandem Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler. Each time, Davis encouraged his new figurehead(s) to build a roster in their vision, with ample time to do so.
The Reggie McKenzie-era lasted six seasons, with an additional one year under Gruden, before Gruden returned to the Raiders on an unheard of 10-year deal. Gruden, like McKenzie, had the green light in all aspects. One year into working with each other, Gruden exercised this green light in replacing McKenzie with Mike Mayock.
Jon Gruden lasted three years and change, but that wasn’t the plan. Had it not been for an off-field incident stemming from the Washington investigation, it’s likely Gruden is still coaching the Raiders as I write this story which would effectively cease to exist.
The latest in Sin City
Taking over for Gruden was the duo of general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels; the ‘Patriot Way’ guys. Again, like both McKenzie and Gruden, the Raiders owner bought their long-term vision and offered multiple years to make it a reality.
In fact, Josh McDaniels got a six-year deal to make things happen.
Don’t let the premature firing after only a year and a half fool you; McDaniels is still getting paid the entirety of his contract. McDaniels underachieved so hard in Davis’ eyes that the son of Al figured it was worth paying him four and a half more years specifically to not coach the Raiders any longer.
Basically, don’t perform as poorly as Josh McDaniels did, who broke the NFL record for most losses in a season in games with a double-digit lead at the half, lost to a quarterback who hadn’t practiced with his new team yet, lost to high school coach Jeff Saturday (and remained Saturday’s only victory), and lost to a bottom-feeding Bears team with undrafted free agent quarterback Tyson Bagent making his debut, and you’ll be fine.
Mark Davis is willing to give those he believes in the keys. He’s also willing to give ample time to create a vision.
Silly me; I almost left out the part about spending your days in beautiful Las Vegas. If that doesn’t excite you as a coach, it should excite you knowing you have the city of Las Vegas to offer players as a home when speaking to free agents. Not only is it a gorgeous city with a seemingly-infinite amount of things to do, but there’s no state taxes!
We aren’t just talking about Vegas, though – we’re talking about the Raiders.
As a newcomer head coach, not only do you have a heavy-duty offense to compliment whichever quarterback you choose to chase in the upcoming draft, and a defense playing fantastic football, and a warm, vibrant city to relax in when you’re off the clock, but you have the honor of coaching one of the most storied franchises in American sports.
The prominent history of the Raiders is enough to make any football fanatic feel chills when being face-to-face with the iconic silver and black uniforms that have blessed the National Football League for decades. From the Autumn Wind to the phrases once spoken by the great Al Davis, including, “Just Win, Baby,” and “Once A Raider, Always A Raider,” the mystique of the Silver and Black is truly second-to-none.
And, to top it all off, you’re dealing with the best fans in the world. The loyal members of the vast Raider Nation, who stand in excitement waiting on what’s next for their team.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA Today