Mark Davis made his choice. Antonio Pierce and Tom Telesco captain Davis’ Las Vegas Raiders into the 2024 season and beyond as the new head coach and general manager, respectively.
The Silver and Black marauder ran aground with the previous pair at said positions—they shall now be only referred to as the Patriot Twins—before Pierce, under the interim head coach tag, along with interim GM Champ Kelly, took the wheel and steered the ship towards better waters.
Why “Stand Up” in the headline, you ask?
I borrowed that tagline from former Raider Richard Seymour, who was part of the search committee and sat in on interviews with Davis during the team’s excursion to hire two new leaders.
prepare yourself for the dawn of a new era! Raider nation….
stand up pic.twitter.com/oT84UaBdsX
— Richard Seymour (@BigSey93) January 25, 2024
It’s apt, really.
The duo of Pierce and Telesco must stand tall and become the Mega Powers (that OG tag team of Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Hulk Hogan from the WWF days) in an AFC West that saw the addition of similarly touted head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It’s a partnership,” Telesco said during the introductory press conference for himself and Pierce on Wednesday afternoon. “As far as building the roster, you’re working through the vision of the head coach. How does he want to play on offense? Does he want to play on defense? How does he want to play on special teams? And you build it that way.
Both Pierce and Telesco noted that the vision is to win the division and raise the Lombardi Trophy. That’s a tall task.
But if there were a combo to do it, it’s AP and Tommy T.
“Understand that we’ve got a plan,” Pierce said. “And that plan is to do it together and go hand in hand with it. Obviously, if he goes down, I go down. That’s just how it is. Our plan is to win, put a team in place that is competitive each and every week, and give ourselves an opportunity to win.”
Raiders owner Mark Davis pivots…
While it seemed destined for Pierce to land the gig as head honcho—he’s the much-ballyhooed candidate that got ultimatum support from the Raiders best player Maxx Crosby—the same was thought of Kelly. Instead, Davis pivoted and brought in Telesco, who spearheaded the Los Angeles Chargers’ personnel crew for the last 11 seasons.
Why would Davis entrust his franchise to a dude who saw the team he built get molly whopped in a Raiders’ franchise-record setting 63-21 shellacking of the Chargers? Aren’t the Bolts the model for mediocrity and underachieving?
Valid questions and concerns have merit.
This move certainly reeks of “because I can” from Davis. He is the owner, and while he relied on a group to identify the head coach and general manager, the final call is his, and the blame will fall squarely on his shoulders. (He’ll also receive little of the praise; that’ll go to Pierce and Telesco if the Raiders generate success.) However, you don’t have to look very deep to see Davis’ line of sight.
No matter what you say about Telesco and his stint with the Chargers, the heart of the matter is that he has an eye for talent and hits on early-round picks. He did have his whiffs—which drafter doesn’t miss?—but he’s found productive talent with premium draft picks. That alone makes him enticing for a moribund Raiders team that misses on draft selections on the reg. And, here’s the key item in Las Vegas: Telesco will have a head coach in Pierce who showed he can get the most out of players.
Tommy T. didn’t have that consistency with the Chargers. Whether he hired Brandon Staley unilaterally or the Spanos family had their hands on it, Telesco’s run the last few seasons was mired by a supposed genius know-it-all coach who couldn’t muster everything out of his players. Let’s put this in terms Raider Nation will easily understand: Staley is the defensive version of Josh McDaniels. Oh man, I did say that he’d remain nameless, huh? Well, Joshy Poo and Dave “Dolph” Ziegler get a mention here.
With the Raiders, Telesco lands with a head coach who can motivate and get the absolute best out of his players. Yes, the nine-game sample was small, and the 5-4 record isn’t earth-shattering, but the team did a complete 180, going from McDaniels to Pierce. And it sure did look like the Bolts played like a team that wanted nothing more to do with Staley, and he and Telesco got the boot from Los Angeles.
As GM, Telesco will have the final say on roster decisions. That was the assumption with the prior regime, but it turned out the head coach was the ultimate decider. Telesco brings a wealth of experience for the rookie head coach that Pierce is, but noted that to build the team properly, he has to shape it in the vision of the El Capitan.
“As far as building the roster, you’re working through the vision of the head coach. How does he want to play on offense? Does he want to play on defense? How does he want to play on special teams? And you build it that way,” Telesco noted. “There’s a lot of discussion. You work through things. We’re going to be able to bounce ideas off each other.”
Davis had Telesco and Pierce meet to see if they could mesh before tabbing Telesco as GM. Now, the duo is responsible for transforming the Raiders into a winning team. Showcasing their synergy, both talked about the traditional Silver and Black attack on offense, which is the vertical pass. That entails having the quarterback to get the ball downfield, the speed to fly to get the passes, and the offensive line to ensure the signal caller has the time to throw.
We shall see if Telesco can give Pierce the ingredients to cook.
And for the negative Nate’s and Nancy’s out there, here’s my retort to the Pierce and Telesco naysayers from the immortal words of Bret Hart:
— Allan (@allan_cheapshot) January 25, 2024
*Top Photo: Getty Images