Antonio Pierce Gaining Momentum For Full-Time Raiders HC Position?

The Raiders are one of three teams which are guaranteed to conduct head coach searches this offseason, but the team’s play of late has likely played a factor in that process. Interim HC Antonio Pierce has guided the team to a 4-3 record since taking over and in doing so has helped his cause for earning the full-time gig.

Upon taking over from Josh McDaniels midseason, Pierce took on a much larger workload than he had previously experienced at the NFL level. His 2022 posting as Las Vegas’ linebackers coach was his first in the pros, giving him a thin resume with respect to a number of the other coaching candidates likely to be interviewed for the position. For that reason, it came as little surprise when a recent report indicated interim general manager Champ Kelly was the likelier of the two to have the interim tag removed.

However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano note Pierce has strengthened his case to get the nod for 2024 and beyond. The team’s fourth win on his watch – a Christmas Day upset of the Chiefs – has them in contention for both the AFC West title and a wild-card berth with two weeks remaining in the season. The path to a playoff spot of any kind is narrow, but the fact the Raiders are still in contention is a dramatic turnaround from where things stood with McDaniels in place.

Pierce’s audition period has seen the team play with increased levels of discipline and physicality, something the ESPN report notes has “impressed” owner Mark Davis. The latter was in a similar position when Rich Bisaccia took over for Jon Gruden in 2021, but his relatively strong run was not sufficient to land him the permanent posting. Davis has since come to regret the decision to replace Bisaccia with McDaniels, but the current situation represents an opportunity to avoid a repeat of that perceived mistake.

Early reports in the aftermath of Pierce taking charge pointed to Davis being impressed with the improvement from the McDaniels regime. The Raiders have allowed more than 21 points in a game only once since the change was made, and a strong defensive showing will be needed to keep the team’s postseason chances alive. Regardless of if Vegas manages to secure a playoff berth or not, Pierce’s stock has certainly risen in recent weeks.

Much will depend on the team’s finish to the season, one in which Pierce has brought in a number of experienced staffers to help him in his (as of now) temporary assignment. The Raiders will likely have their new general manager in place early in the offseason to assist in the process of hiring a full-time head coach, something which still needs to satisfy the Rooney Rule. As things currently stand, though, that endeavor could very well result in Pierce being handed the reins on a permanent basis.

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