After a victory in the final game of the regular season, the Las Vegas Raiders were able to defeat the Denver Broncos at home as their season comes to an end. The record stands at five wins and four losses for interim head coach, Antonio Pierce, but what he was able to do for the locker room And organization culture remains the most important factor and how this season comes to an end.
Although it was a long shot for the Raiders to make it to the postseason after a rough start to the season under Josh McDaniels, the Raiders did make things interesting by responding immediately to the new direction that Antonio Pierce was pushing the team towards. Antonio Pierce didn’t only change the locker room culture, but it was a parent that the coaches responded as well.
The defensive performance from the Raiders over many years has been an anchor for the team, and has been a point that has needed to be addressed. It seemed that no matter who they had on the defensive side of the ball, the execution was not there. This all changed under Antonio Pierce. He retained defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who was in the same position under former head coach Josh McDaniels, and we saw the same defense take huge steps forward after the coaching change. Since Pierce took over at the helm, the Raiders had the fewest amount of defensive penalties equaling being tied for first in that category with 31. If you know anything about the NFL, you know the Raiders usually lead in that category. There is many different theories on why that is the case, but something completely flipped which is very impressive. The Raiders were able to see the emergence of Robert Spillane, Malcolm Koonce, and even their first-round pick from the previous draft in Tyree Wilson after a tough start of the season in which he started off recovering from an injury. These three began to standout, along with Raiders defensive standout Maxx Crosby, and really make an impact on games. The late addition of former New England Patriot Jack Jones also made an impact for the defensive backs as he recorded interception for touchdowns in two consecutive games. All in all Antonio Pierce, and interim general manager Champ Kelly have been able to construct a team that was able to go neck and neck with some of the better teams in football.
After the game, raiders from past and present all came together and showcase their reasons on why they believe that this is the right man to move forward with as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. A lot of players were asked in the locker room about Antonio Pierce, and defensive end Maxx Crosby answered “Yeah. Obviously… why wouldn’t we keep going in the direction we’re going.” This is just one of many statements made in conversations with different players after the Raiders 8th consecutive head-to-head victory over the Broncos. With what was built, the results spoke for themselves on the field, and its example of the “Raider Pride” that Antonio Pierce described in his press conference when he was introduced as the interim head coach of the team. Fast forward to the end of the season, cornerback Jack Jones described this culture to a tee. “The Raiders allow players to be themselves, they’re not trying to take the fun out of the game…” all of this combine, has even earned the respect and the stamp of approval from legends within the Raiders organization, including the likes of Charles Woodson, Jim Plunkett, Jim Otto, and more. It’s very rare to see something like this happen, but the entire organization is behind this man, but the decision needs to be finalized by Mark Davis.
Every aspect of the Raiders changed with Pierce, and that “Raider Pride” has been allowed to flourish. It has more of a combined unity, where everyone contributes. And to sum it up best why would you want to mess that up? Moving into the off-season Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has a tough decision to make. People within the organization and the fan call Antonio Pierce to remain the head coach moving into the next season. There are other candidates that the media has linked to Las Vegas. Different names have been floating around, but the most intriguing potential connection is Jim Harbaugh. He has been connected to the Raiders organization in the past, and rumors have even linked him to becoming head coach of the Raiders at one point, but do we finally see him step into the head coaching role in Las Vegas? There will be competition for his services as, up to this point, there are six open head coaching across the NFL. Harbaugh will be competing in the College National Championship with Michigan vs. Washington, and the result of this game can change the direction he goes. The offseason for the Raiders will be interesting. There are a lot of questions about who will be coming back to the team, and for now we will wait and see.
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