Throughout his stint as the Las Vegas Raiders‘ interim head coach, Antonio Pierce never moved out of his linebacker’s coaching office. After removing the interim tag from his title, Pierce finally moved into the big corner office.
Interim no longer
Throughout his interim coaching stint, Pierce proved time and time again that he was the man for the job. He changed the culture almost instantaneously, from a mausoleum to a winning football team. Cultivating a feeling of belief, instilling a certain attitude, and swag.
Most importantly, he is a throwback to what an old-school Raider was all about: pride, purpose, and an unapologizing physical style. A defensive first approach, a grueling physical ground attack, and a big-legged kicker. True to the image and identity the late maverick Al Davis set forth. Pierce’s charisma is unmatched, and his energy is infectious.
Pierce united the Raiders locker room at a key juncture in the season. Players and coaches unanimously selected him to be the man moving forward in Week 9. Never once did the player’s support waver in Pierce. Even after the season ended, players continued to endorse Pierce as the head coach. Maxx Crosby even went as far as to threaten to ask for a trade.
Rookie head coaches usually struggle when it comes to putting together a staff. The success of Pierce’s team will heavily depend on his hiring of an offensive coordinator and staff, considering his background in defense. One of Pierce’s many endearing qualities is knowing what he isn’t proficient at and seeking help.
Tom Coughlin, as a coach, is a two-time Super Bowl champion (2007 and 2011, both over the New England Patriots). Additionally, he coached Pierce, and they developed a bond, and he has mentored AP as he progressed in life. When in need of counsel or guidance, Coughlin is one of two former NFL coaches Pierce turns to.
Marvin Lewis is best known for coordinating the great 00′ Ravens defense. He was the head coach at the Cincinnati Bengals for 16 years and has much knowledge and wisdom on the defensive side of the ball to impart to Pierce and the Raiders defense.
OC is priority #1 for both AP and the Raiders
At the end of his 10-week interim stint defensively, the Raiders finished the year on a tear. Charging up NFL rankings from as low as the mid-twenties to finishing No. 9 in scoring defense. The offense was a whole other story. It became very apparent that there needed to be some wholesale changes made on offense. One of the first orders of business after accepting the job for Pierce was to relieve interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree of his duty.
The offensive coordinator position is going to be the make-or-break staff position for the Pierce coaching hire. If he gets this right, the Raiders have the pieces on offense to be great with the right scheme and quarterback. Fast-tracking a return to the playoffs and success. If he gets this wrong, we could be looking at more scoreless games and frustrating, listless performances.
The real question is: what type of scheme works best with the players on the roster?
Match talent to the scheme, not the other way around…
Josh McDaniels’ variation of the Erhardt-Perkins system was a catastrophic failure. Currently, a functionally mobile quarterback, which is necessary for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread offense, is not on this roster. Two great big ol’ 6’2-6’6 receivers who can run 4.3-second 40-yard dashes aren’t on this roster currently either. So the Air Coryell system isn’t uniquely suited to the roster either.
Every time the Raiders have made the playoffs in the last 30 years, they were running the West Coast offense. Given the twitchy ability of the wide receivers to win at the line of scrimmage, perhaps leaning toward the West Coast offense is the way. Josh Jacobs, who is currently a free agent and has also expressed interest in coming back to play for Pierce, is more of a zone runner, while Zamir White is a one-cut back.
Michael Mayer, Tre Tucker, and Jakobi Meyers can all eat in a West Coast offense. What it will need is a quarterback who can process the defense, make the right read, throw a catchable ball, and make a play when necessary. A fresh take and some new variations to this would be ideal, along with a great playcaller with attention to detail that could help get the Raiders to where they want to be.