HENDERSON, Nev. — Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis had given himself the NFL’s Oct. 31 trade deadline as his personal deadline to decide whether to make a switch not only at head coach but at general manager.
Davis ultimately fired Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler from those positions Tuesday night, less than two years after he hired them away from the New England Patriots.
“Unfortunately, I had great hopes for Josh and Dave,” Davis told ESPN on Wednesday. “It just seemed we were going in the wrong direction. So, with the trade deadline, I just felt it was time to make a change, time to make a move.”
An embarrassing 26-14 loss on Monday Night Football at Detroit all but sealed the duo’s fate. It came one week after the Raiders were beaten 30-12 at the Chicago Bears, falling to an undrafted Division II rookie quarterback making his first career NFL start in Tyson Bagent.
In hiring McDaniels in January 2022, Davis pointed to his success as an imaginative offensive coordinator with the Patriots and his six Super Bowl rings. But that success did not translate to the Raiders.
McDaniels oversaw some of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history. They blew a 20-point lead to the Arizona Cardinals. They lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the coaching debut of Jeff Saturday, who had no previous coaching experience beyond high school football. Their starting offense failed to cross the 50-yard line in a shutout loss at the New Orleans Saints. They lost to Baker Mayfield after he had joined the Los Angeles Rams just three days prior.
The losses to the Bears and Lions were the final blows.
McDaniels’ purported high-powered offense, led by his personal choice at quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and All-Pros at receiver and running back in Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs, entered the week as ranked No. 31 in total offense, in terms of average yards per game.
Davis is now going in an entirely different direction, turning to the intense Antonio Pierce as interim coach and the more laid-back Champ Kelly as interim GM.
Davis said he was “intrigued” enough by Pierce’s bio — including a nine-year NFL career at linebacker, one Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl title with the New York Giants — to have a sitdown with him.
“Seemed like a fresh approach,” Davis said. “Seemed like the adjustment we need at this time. I was impressed.”
Davis added that he wanted Pierce to “lead, not necessarily coach. To delegate to the coordinators and other position coaches. Be somebody they could follow. I felt good about it. I felt good about him.”
Quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree was promoted to offensive coordinator and play-caller.
“That’s not to say I don’t want him to coach now, but he understands the culture of the Raiders, and that’s important to me,” Davis said of Pierce. “I felt very good about it.”
Davis said he chose Pierce as interim coach over “several qualified candidates” also on staff.
He was realistic when asked about his expectations for the Raiders, who are replacing the high-priced but oft-injured Garoppolo with rookie Aidan O’Connell at quarterback. The Raiders play host to the New York Giants (2-6) on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
“I have no idea,” Davis said. “That’s why they play the games. My job, my role is to give them all the tools possible for them to succeed.
“Once they’re the head coach and general manager, they’re the ones making the decisions.”