News broke in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that the Las Vegas Raiders had cleaned house. Owner Mark Davis made the decision to axe head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler after the team's uninspiring 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Davis' decision will undoubtedly have long standing ripple effects throughout the NFL.
Coming midway through the season, his dismissal was as startling as it was swift, leaving fans and pundits alike scrambling to understand what went wrong in Sin City.
Examining McDaniels Demise in Las Vegas
McDaniels is out just 21 months after the Raiders went all in on "the Patriot Way." The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator went just 9-16 in his time in Vegas, falling well short of expectations. But, how much did we really expect from a guy that hasn't even coached a top-ten offense without Tom Brady?
Remember, the 47-year-old started his head coaching career on a high note, going 6-0 to begin the 2009 season with the Denver Broncos. Everything quickly fell apart, as Denver went 2-8 down the stretch. His team failed to emulate the Pats explosive attacks of years' past, as the Broncos finished 15th in points and 20th in yards. Denver started the following season 3-9 before McDaniels was mercilessly dismissed after his locker room nearly mutinied.
Apparently he learned very little in Denver. After trading Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall in his first stop, McDaniels benched longtime Raiders starter Derek Carr down the stretch before jettisoning the veteran in the off-season. Carr is by no means a perfect player, but the Raiders offense ranked 12th in yards and points last season. Vegas then sent top-tier tight end Darren Waller packing.
The Raiders brought Jimmy Garoppolo to town in the hopes that his familiarity with McDaniels' system would help usher in a new era in Sin City. However, Garoppolo has been wholly ineffective even when healthy this season. After signing a three-year contract with in Las Vegas, Garoppolo's averaging career-lows is yards per attempt and passer rating while throwing 9 interceptions. That ain't gonna cut it.
The general poor play of Garoppolo and lack of execution from the offensive side of the football is just one cause of McDaniels' demise. Las Vegas is 31st in total yards and 30th in points so far.
Locker Room Roulette
Perhaps more damaging than the Xs and Os was McDaniels handling of the team off the field. His troubles in handling the mood of the team in Denver are well documented, and that failure to establish a winning environment continued in Vegas.
Reports of locker room discontent began to surface early in the season. Key players, like Davante Adams weren't been shy about expressing their discontent for McDaniels' methods.
Davante Adams on the happy, loose locker room today: pic.twitter.com/APrKEBd58X— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) November 2, 2023
Above all else, Josh McDaniels can look back at his failure to establish a winning culture as a main reason for his firing. Too many of his players outside of New England have lost faith in his system and leadership. In the NFL, a coach can only survive if he has the locker room behind him.
Just how McDaniels expects to find work after his latest coaching blunder is a mystery. That being said, he won't be hurting for cash anytime soon.
NFL coaching contracts are fully guaranteed. With Mark Davis' dismissal of McDaniels, and Jon Gruden being pushed out the door two years ago, Davis is now shelling out somewhere in the region of 50-80 million dollars per year for them to not coach the team. For an owner without the multi-faceted business resources of many in the NFL, that has to hurt. This is just another example of Davis' poor management hurting the Raiders in all facets of the game.
How does a team THAT TRADED KHALIL MACK IN HIS PRIME due to a lack of funds, turn around and fire yet another hand picked football operations team within two years? The Raiders continued ineptitude knows no bounds.
Who's next for the Raiders?
After naming linebackers coach and former Pro Bowler Antonio Pierce as the interim coach, odds for the Raiders next coach have been released.
Notably, embattled Michigan head honcho Jim Harbaugh leads the way. USC head coach Lincoln Riley is another interesting name from the college world. Although, Riley's buyout is likely enormous, which could give Mark Davis second thoughts.
Bringing Raiders legend Charles Woodson to the sidelines would be a spectacle. But, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year has given no indication he'd like to leave his cushy confines at Fox Sports.
Current Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson would be an interesting choice for the Raiders. Although, Johnson will be a hot name in coaching circles this off-season, and will likely have his choice among the vacancies surely to pop up.
The Baltimore Ravens defense has allowed just 4.2 yards per play this season— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) October 31, 2023
It ranks 1st in the NFL 😎 pic.twitter.com/TUl2p9FjOT
As a result, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike McDonald is my best bet on the board. McDonald's Ravens unit leads the league in defensive DVOA and sacks. Baltimore's defense has the team looking like true Super Bowl contenders. McDonald is exactly the type of young, innovative coach who could spark a turnaround of a completely inept Raiders organization.
The Path Ahead for the Raiders
With McDaniels' departure, the Raiders are back to square one, seeking a leader who can reset their culture and "just win, baby!" The next hire will be crucial, as the team seeks a coach who can strategize and innovate as well as unite and inspire a diverse group of players.
In the end, the decision to part ways with McDaniels reflects a fundamental truth about the high-pressure world of NFL coaching: potential means nothing without results. In the city where fortunes are made and lost on the roll of a dice, the Raiders have decided to stop gambling on Josh McDaniels. The quest for a winning hand continues.