Mark Davis

Raiders’ HC Search Narrowing

The Raiders’ 2021-22 NFL season hasn’t yet come to an end, but, according to the rumors circulating in the NFL, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis is already locked-in on his preferred replacement hire for head coach. Davis hasn’t conducted an official search, but Mike Florio of NBC Sports confirms what most of the league is thinking: that Davis already knows who he wants.

As of right now, the hot gossip around the league is pointing to Davis pursuing current University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh, of course, had a previous stint in the NFL, coaching the 49ers for four seasons. Harbaugh’s record as an NFL head coach stands at 44-19-1. Harbaugh went to the NFC Championship game in all of his first three seasons and even made it to the Super Bowl in his second year, only to lose to his older brother and the Ravens. Harbaugh’s fourth year saw the 49ers go 8-8 and resulted in the end of his contract.

Since his departure from the NFL, Harbaugh has been one of college football’s more eccentric coaches, leading the Wolverines to a 61-24 record since 2015 and helping Michigan to their first Big Ten Championship since 2004. The upside of Harbaugh is apparent as he has shown the ability to win at both levels.

Current interim head coach of the Raiders, Rich Bisaccia, may have something to say about that, though. Bisaccia took over after Jon Gruden’s noisy departure and has kept the ship upright, going 6-5 and keeping the Raiders alive in the playoff hunt. Things could get interesting if the team rallies under Bisaccia to make some noise in the playoffs.

According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, Davis, who also owns the Las Vegas Aces, made a splashy hire for their head coaching position, pulling Becky Hammon away from the San Antonio Spurs. What’s interesting is that he told Bill Laimbeer, the incumbent head coach of the Aces from the previous season, that, if Hammon declined to take the position, Laimbeer would be retained. A similar offer could be in the cards for Harbaugh and Bisaccia.

The unfortunate part of this situation is that, when owners make up their mind like this before a search can be conducted, it makes a mockery of the league’s Rooney Rule. Davis will surely make sure his franchise complies with the rule, inviting ethnic-minority candidates in to interview, but interviews haven’t even begun to be planned, and the outcome already seems like a foregone conclusion.

Regardless, all signs are pointing to Jim Harbaugh becoming the next head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders with his main competition being the current interim head coach. Bisaccia looks to to make Davis’s decision a little more difficult tonight with a win against the Chargers.

Raiders Have Not Begun HC Search

Generally speaking, one of the benefits of parting ways with a head coach in the middle of the season is that it gives a club a head start on the search for its next HC. The Raiders, though, do not plan on capitalizing on that opportunity. Las Vegas is currently being run by interim head coach Rich Bisaccia after Jon Gruden‘s resignation in October, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports hears that team owner Mark Davis has not started the search for Gruden’s permanent replacement and may not do so until after the season.

It has been something of a difficult year for Davis. The Raiders got out to a 5-2 start, but the Gruden resignation — circumstances surrounding which infuriated Davis — and the departures of 2020 first-rounders Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette cast a pall over the organization. Still, Davis has been pleased with how his club has responded to the adversity, and after a big win over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Raiders back into the AFC playoff picture, he is not keen to focus on anything other than wins and losses at the moment.

One source told La Canfora that Davis, “isn’t ready to go there yet. He’s not ready to launch a coaching search. That’s not where he is.”

Davis can probably afford to be patient here. The Las Vegas coaching gig is a highly desirable one, so even if he waits until the end of the season to begin his HC search in earnest, Davis still has a good chance to land his top choice, whoever that happens to be. Indeed, La Canfora reports that interested candidates have proactively reached out to the organization, only to be rebuffed.

In addition to making a call on the next head coach, Davis will also need to decide GM Mike Mayock‘s fate. The most recent news on the matter indicated that Mayock — who reported to Gruden in the club’s previous, unorthodox power structure — has a legitimate chance to retain his job, though it’s fair to wonder whether a top-tier head coach will want to partner with a holdover general manager.

Raiders Notes: Davis, Mayock, Hudson

As a result of Jon Gruden‘s resignation, the Raiders will, of course, have plenty of difficult decisions to make this offseason, including how to fill their head coaching position. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, owner Mark Davis will assemble a small group of advisors to assist him with his HC search, which should yield a number of high-level candidates. Popular names from recent coaching cycles like Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, and Iowa State HC Matt Campbell are just a few of the possibilities.

Davis will also discuss with his advisors whether GM Mike Mayock — who will now have a 51% say in roster decisions — should remain with the club. If Davis is able to lure a sought-after head coach, such a person may not want to partner with a holdover GM, but Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal believes Davis will legitimately consider retaining Mayock (Twitter link).

More out of Las Vegas:

  • We recently explored the topic of how much money remained under Gruden’s contract with the Raiders and if Gruden would be entitled to any of that amount. The assumption was that Gruden and Davis had worked out some sort of severance package, but according to Rapoport, a settlement has not yet been reached. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe confirms that the contract was heavily backloaded, and that Gruden has received less than 30% of the $100MM to which he would have otherwise been entitled.
  • Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Davis — who Rapoport says delivered an upbeat, positive message to his club on Wednesday — is nonetheless furious with the league office for what he believes is a hit job. Davis reportedly thinks that the league office was intent on forcing Gruden out, and that it was responsible for the leaked emails to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that triggered his resignation.
  • Davis’ ire is enflamed by the fact that those emails stemmed from an investigation into a different team (the Washington Football Team) that went back over a decade, an investigation that has not resulted in any punishment for WFT executives or officials. The NFL has denied involved in the NYT and WSJ stories, but Davis is said to be mulling a lawsuit.
  • For what it’s worth, Volin believes the leaked emails were indeed a hit job, but not one ordered by the league office. On Thursday, the NYT and WSJ independently published stories detailing embarrassing emails that the league’s No. 2 exec, attorney Jeff Pash, sent to former WFT president Bruce Allen. While those emails were not as provocative as the ones Gruden sent to Allen, it is unlikely that the league would intentionally shame one of its own top officials. Instead, the leaks might have come from someone connected to the WFT investigation who was unsatisfied with the results.
  • The Raiders saw significant turnover on the O-line this offseason, and as a result of veteran departures, injuries, and poor performance, the unit has been a disappointment in 2021. Former center Rodney Hudson, who was traded to the Cardinals in March, actually requested his release after Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown were traded, as Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes. Ultimately, Vegas — which was apparently shocked by the request — was able to swing a deal with Arizona, but it would probably like to have its Pro Bowl pivot back in the Silver-and-Black.

Mark Davis Still Confident In Jon Gruden And Mike Mayock

The Raiders were a big disappointment in 2020, fizzling down the stretch after a hot start. After going 6-3 through the first nine games, they went just 2-5 in the final seven to finish at an even .500. Jon Gruden has now had three years at the helm, and while he hasn’t made the playoffs yet, it doesn’t sound like his job will be in any real jeopardy anytime soon.

Speaking to Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owner Mark Davis reiterated that he’s confident in Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock. “Absolutely,” Davis replied, when asked if he still thought he had the right leadership combo in place.

In Year 1 with Jon, it was a deconstructive phase where he wanted to get things down to more salary cap control and really start building the team. We made a little progress in Year 2 but obviously not enough. Mike then came in and our drafting and player management (strategy) was a little different. I thought we made some progress there. We were really looking forward to this inaugural season in Las Vegas — our new practice facility and everything else. All the things we dreamed of were coming true.”

Davis went on to say that COVID-19 derailed things, and that “it’s really hard to put any kind of grade on the season, except to say we didn’t get to where we expected to be. But yes, I’m happy with (the leadership).” Davis reportedly gave Gruden a ten-year contract to lure him out of the broadcast booth in 2018, and it sounds like he’s intent on seeing the duration of that deal out.

Gruden’s record isn’t entirely fair to lump all on him, as he’s done a commendable job with the offense, getting Derek Carr to have by far his two most efficient seasons in the NFL the last two years. The defense has been a train-wreck though, which culminated in the firing of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther late in the year.

That DC search will now be critical for 2021, and we’ve heard them linked to Gus Bradley and a couple of other names. As for that search, Davis said “I’m involved in the interviews in a small way, but my philosophy is one thing I know is what I don’t know. And I’m going to let the guys I hired do their jobs. It’s up to Mike and Jon to determine who the person is that they feel will do the best job for the Raiders. I’ll play devil’s advocate with them and question them, but the final decision is their choice.”

Extra Points: Cooper, Raiders, Ansah, Lions, Firings

The trade of Amari Cooper from the Raiders to the Cowboys has been one of the most discussed stories this NFL season. The conventional wisdom had been that new coach Jon Gruden wanted him gone as he sought to stockpile more draft picks to completely rebuild the Raiders the way he wanted, but new information suggests that might not be the case. Cooper himself told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link) that it was Raiders owner Mark Davis who wanted him gone and not Gruden.

Cooper shares an agent with Khalil Mack, and rumors have swirled online for a while now that there may have been bad blood between Davis and Mack’s agent after the two sides were unable to work out a new deal for the defensive end. That being said, the notion that Davis is the one who wanted Cooper off the Raiders isn’t true, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who tweets that Cooper is misinformed. It’s unclear who’s right, but it’s likely this isn’t the last we hear of this story.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was placed on injured reserve recently, and has likely played his last game as a Lion, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Birkett writes that he “can’t see” Ansah returning to Detroit, even on a “one-year prove-it deal.” Ansah is a very talented pass-rusher, but has been unable to stay healthy the past couple of years while the Lions have paid him a ton of money. His free agency and what type of deal he’s able to land will be one of the most interesting to monitor this spring.
  • There will surely be a bunch of coaching moves on Black Monday once the regular season is over, but there have already been a bunch of moves made this season, and Field Yates of ESPN.com recapped all of the in-season firings (Twitter link). Packers head coach Mike McCarthy & associate head coach Winston Moss, Browns head coach Hue Jackson & offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFillipo, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and Lions special teams coordinator Joe Marciano have all been let go this year. We’ll know more very soon, but at least a few more head coaching jobs will be open soon, with Vance Joseph, Dirk Koetter, and Todd Bowles being the most likely candidates to be replaced.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks are interested in re-signing linebacker Mychal Kendricks once he serves his sentence for insider trading.

Raiders Owner On Mack Trade, Gruden

Raiders owner Mark Davis is taking responsibility for the team’s 1-8 start, even though many are pointing fingers at head coach Jon Gruden

I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me,” Davis told ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez. “Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven’t been able to build a 22-man roster. We haven’t been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now.”

Over the course of a 45-minute interview, Davis discussed Gruden, GM Reggie McKenzie, the team’s widely panned trade of defensive star Khalil Mack, and much more. Here’s a look at the highlights:

On Gruden’s role in the Mack trade:

Jon wanted him. Everybody thinks that Jon’s the one who wanted to get rid of him. Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn’t you want this guy? Reggie wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a (contract), how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?

On what prompted the team to send Mack to the Bears: 

My thought was, “Listen, he signed a five-year contract, if he’s the type of guy that I think he is, he’s going to honor that contract.” And he’s going to come in and play for the $13MM for this year and then we’ll work for him during the year and get it. Word came back through certain players that know him and talk to him and know me as well, that he wasn’t going to come in. He was going to do the Le’Veon Bell (holdout). At that point, I said, F’ it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.

On Mack’s agent, Joel Segal:

It might not have been the right decision, but the other point to this whole thing is that Segal is also the agent for Amari Cooper. And we knew the same situation was coming up the next year. It wasn’t just one layer of chess; it was two layers of chess. But to blame Jon, for Khalil Mack not being here, is absolutely not the truth. It was a decision that was made and it wasn’t made easily … I don’t have any bad feelings toward (Mack). I wish he would have talked to Jon and Reggie and wanted to at least honor the fifth year of his contract.

On the future of quarterback Derek Carr:

Derek is taking a lot of s— right now. He is the franchise quarterback right now. He doesn’t have Amari Cooper. He lost (Martavis) Bryant to a knee injury today. Guys have been getting hurt. Who’s he throwing to? Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts, which are good guys. But they’re not putting the fear of God in anybody. The tight end (Jared Cook) is playing his ass off. You look at the quarterback and he’s playing behind a battered offensive line … so I don’t know what you can put on Derek and I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on him.

On McKenzie’s future:

Reggie and I need to sit down and talk and figure out how we are going to go about the future. We’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out, where the hell did we go wrong in trying to build this thing? We failed. I have failed. But at the same time, we wouldn’t have been in the great position we were in without Reggie McKenzie being here.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Incognito, Steelers

After the NFL recently announced their new national anthem policy, more details about the owners’ process are trickling out. There apparently was no official vote on the new anthem policy, only an informal polling of owners by league executives, according to Seth Wickersham of ESPN (Twitter links). Wickersham added that Raiders owner Mark Davis abstained from the vote and was “one of the most eloquent speakers on the social justice issues.” Davis joined 49ers owner Jed York, who made his abstention public yesterday, in abstaining from the vote.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Free agent offensive lineman Richie Incognito apparently believed he was being followed by FBI agents and was in the possession of secret NSA documents when he was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold yesterday (Twitter link via USA Today’s A.J. Perez). Incognito recently announced his retirement from the league, but has since wavered and indicated he’d like to continue playing with a team other than the Bills, who he played the last three seasons with. Incidents like this certainly won’t help Incognito’s quest to latch on with another team.
  • Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt played with a torn bicep during the 2017 season, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (Twitter link). Tuitt made clear that he’s fully healthy now, saying the injury “is back healed again and strong and I can’t wait to stick people in the mouth with it.” Tuitt was signed to a $60MM extension before last season, and will be counted on to play a big role this year.
  • Bengals star defensive end Carlos Dunlap missed the beginning of OTAs, according to Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Although Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called it “not a big deal,” Dunlap will miss out on a $300K workout bonus. Dunlap, a two-time Pro-Bowler, is entering the final year of his contract and is apparently angling for an extension.

Mark Davis Addresses New Raiders Power Structure

This offseason’s provided the first taste of Jon Gruden taking some of Reggie McKenzie’s power within the Raiders’ organization. Mark Davis clarified the setup, confirming McKenzie won’t have as much responsibility as he once did.

In authorizing a 10-year contract for Gruden, Davis has confirmed the now-two-time Raiders head coach’s voice is the most important in the building.

They have roles to play. At this point in time, the role Reggie plays now is a little different than the role he played with Jack (Del Rio), a little different than his role working with Dennis (Allen),” Davis said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“It evolves. (McKenzie) has built the team to where we are now, and we’re in pretty good shape with the cap and everything else. Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years. His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got.”

Davis added that McKenzie maintains control of Oakland’s salary cap. But Gruden appears to have a much bigger say about free agency targets than his McKenzie-era predecessors did. The Raiders have added several veterans who are north of 30 — like Jordy Nelson, Leon Hall, Dwayne Harris, Breno Giacomini and Shareece Wright — and others non-fifth-year UFAs (Doug Martin, Tahir Whitehead, Emmanuel Lamur, Marcus Gilchrist).

Jon’s the head coach and he’s going to be here a while, so it’s important that he gets the players he wants and builds a team he wants to build,” Davis said. “Reggie is there with his staff to find the players, and also to keep the (salary) cap and everything else in order.”

McKenzie constructed a roster that ended the Raiders’ lengthy playoff drought, with a 12-4 2016 showing, but that group underwhelmed last season and regressed to a six-win outfit.

Davis said he won’t meddle often in the personnel side and confirmed his goal of bringing Gruden back to Oakland took more than five years to come to fruition.

I’m done with the football side,” Davis said. “I got Reggie in place early. That was huge. But it was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach. I wanted him way back then, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I continually kept after Jon to see if he was interested. If he decided to come back, I hoped it would be with the Raiders. This year, he finally came on board.

That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. Jon will be our coach for the next 10 years, or until he gets tired of me. With him and Reggie on the football side of the building, and (director of football administration) Tom Delaney of course, they really do a great job. From the football side, I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

AFC Notes: Anthem, Jets, Raiders, Broncos

Among the most divisive issues facing the NFL today are national anthem protests. That division is also felt among the owners themselves, who are currently in Orlando for the annual owner’s meetings.

Outspoken on the subject for more than a year, Texans owner Bob McNair issued another statement on the issue on Sunday, saying, according to The Washington Post’s Mark Maske (Twitter link):

“We’re going to deal with it in such a way, I think, that people will understand that we want everybody to respect our country, respect our flag. And our playing fields, that’s not the place for political statements.”

Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, however, falls on the other side of the argument, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert (Twitter link).

“I can’t speak to how other people run their teams, but I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea.”

Despite McNair’s seeming assuredness, the owners do not appear to be near to a solution. The issue is sure to permeate throughout the meetings.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Sticking with the Jets, wide receiver Robby Anderson had his court date moved from Monday to Aug. 6, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The new date will now take place while the Jets are at training camp. The charges, stemming from a January incident, include three felonies: second-degree felony harm to a public servant or family, third-degree felony fleeing/eluding police while lights/siren active and third-degree felony speeding. After being arrested, Anderson threatened to sexually assault the wife of the arresting officer, according to reports. Anderson was allegedly clocked at 105 mph in 45-mph zone speeding away from police while running multiple red lights.
  • Broncos general manager and executive vice president of football operations John Elway said the team doesn’t know who it plans to take with the No. 5 pick in 2018 NFL Draft, 9 News’ Mike Klis writes. “You know we’re wide open, to be dead honest with you,’’ Elway said. “Who knows how it’s all going to fall. The Jets have already moved (from the No. 6 pick up to No. 3) and there’s going to be other teams that may be moving around, too, so we’re going to go through and have those discussions. I will tell ya, it’s funny how people think they know who you’re drafting because I don’t know who we’re drafting, yet. We’re going to do our homework and eventually get there.’’ 
  • Raiders owner Mark Davis said with the hiring of new head coach Jon Gruden, he plans to be done with the football side of the organization, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair tweets. “It was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach,” Davis said. “This year, he finally came on board. That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. … I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

 

 

Jack Del Rio Out In Oakland

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was informed after the team’s Week 17 loss to the Chargers that he would not be retained, the coach told reporters including the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken (Twitter link). Jack Del Rio (vertical)

In his postgame press conference, the coach told reporters he was notified “two minutes ago” by Raiders owner Mark Davis of his decision. Del Rio said, “He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to get this program going to right direction, but that he felt he needed a change.” Del Rio expressed gratitude for the opportunity Davis gave him when he hired him in 2015.

Following a breakout 2016 campaign that saw the Raiders go 12-4, Oakland entered 2017 as potential Super Bowl contenders with a loaded offense and a solid defense. Things didn’t go according to plan and the Raiders scuffled to a 6-10 mark.

The firing comes on the heels of the Raiders’ reported pursuit of the team’s former head coach Jon Gruden. Reports claim the Raiders could offer the ESPN analyst an ownership stake in the team to take over as head coach.

In his three seasons as head coach, Del Rio amassed a 25-23 mark and advanced to the postseason in 2016 for the first time since the team lost the Super Bowl in 2002.

With young stars Derek Carr and Amari Cooper on offense and a game-changing talent on defense in Khalil Mack, the Raiders head-coaching job is arguably the top gig that will become available this offseason.