While Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is believed to be “at or near the top” of the Raiders’ list of head coaching candidates, interim head coach Antonio Pierce continues to receive support from many in the organization. In fact, one of the team’s stars is even threatening a trade request if Pierce doesn’t earn the full-time job. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, edge rusher Maxx Crosby is expected to “explore a trade request” if Pierce isn’t promoted.
While many of Crosby’s teammates don’t have the sway to make a similar demand, the locker room is “publicly united” behind their interim head coach. The players believe Pierce has earned the opportunity to “continue building upon the culture and energy he built in Las Vegas this season.” After taking over for Josh McDaniels, Pierce helped guide the Raiders to a 5-4 record to end the 2023 campaign.
Raiders players have continually been supportive of their interim head coach ever since he’s taken over. Wideout Davante Adams told reporters that he’d “run through a wall” for his coach, and Crosby has been vocal about Pierce’s role in rebuilding the Raiders’ culture.
“It’s legendary,” Crosby said recently (via Schefter). “When you have the right culture, a guy like A.P. that embraces the history of the Raiders, it’s special. … A ton of legends [visit] consistently because the amount of respect they have for him. So it makes you, as a player, want to go out there and show who you are. You know what I mean? You want to be at that level one day.”
A Crosby trade request would obviously present a major story line heading into the offseason. The former fourth-round pick has turned into a star during his five seasons with the organization, culminating in a career season in 2023. Crosby earned second-team All-Pro honors this past year after finishing with 14.5 sacks, 31 QB hits, and a league-leading 23 tackles for loss. The pass-rusher is attached to a four-year, nearly $100MM contract that he signed with the Raiders in 2022.
This internal support for Pierce has led some sources to believe that the interim HC is a shoo-in to earn the full-time gig. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Pierce is the “leading candidate” for the job, with one source saying they’d be “blown away if Antonio weren’t the pick.” NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo adds that owner Mark Davis has been impressed by Pierce’s ability to galvanize the squad.
Assuming the Raiders are serious about retaining Pierce, they’ll want to make a decision sooner than later. Per Josina Anderson, Pierce is set to meet with the Titans today about their head coaching job. After this news broke, Crosby was quick to tweet “#HireAP.”
However, there’s also a clear Harbaugh camp within the Raiders organization, an indication that the job could ultimately come down to the two candidates. For what it’s worth, the Raiders have yet to conduct any interviews for the job, and the organization is expected to hire a GM before moving on to their coaching vacancy.
However, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports points out that the organization should be wary of painting this as a two-horse race. If coaches believe Pierce or Harbaugh will ultimately be the choice, the Raiders may have a tough time getting these candidates in the building for interviews. Mark Maske of the Washington Post points out that the Raiders will still need to comply with the NFL’s minority interviewing requirements, which would require Davis and co. to “conduct in-person interviews with at least two minority candidates from outside the organization.”