On Oct. 31, Antonio Pierce was promoted to interim head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, after Josh McDaniels was fired. Pierce had a prolific, nine-year career playing linebacker and winning one Super Bowl with the Giants, but his coaching career has not all been sunshine and rainbows.
Starting his coaching career at high school powerhouse Long Beach Poly, Pierce struggled in his three years, after 14 years of dominance with Ralph Lara at the helm. After an 11-2 first season, Long Beach Poly struggled and didn't get to double-digit wins with Pierce as the coach. After beginning a stint with Arizona State, he was promoted to associate head coach and defensive coordinator in 2021 under Herm Edwards. With Josh McDaniels coming to Vegas, Pierce followed and became a linebackers coach, his first professional coaching experience with an NFL team.
With a 6-11 record under McDaniels last season, it was essential that the Raiders got off to a good start in 2023. Which of course, they did not. A brilliant offensive mind with the Patriots, McDaniels didn't bring any dominance to Vegas and was fired along with general manager, Dave Ziegler.
When Antonio Pierce was appointed head coach, it had fans and media buzzing — an inexperienced head coach in a city that will destroy you if things go badly. The Raiders had other internal options like Patrick Graham, the current defensive coordinator, who had head coaching interviews during his tenure with the Giants. Rob Ryan, brother of Rex, is the senior defensive assistant but Pierce ended up as the choice.
A strong voice in the locker room and a player's coach is important and practical in the NFL today. Taking over a locker room with stars like Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs and Maxx Crosby and a rookie quarterback in Aidan O’Connell, is definitely not easy
His first game came against his former team, the New York Giants, and the Raiders dominated defensively with two interceptions by Nate Hobbs and Amik Robertson and three sacks by Maxx Crosby, destroying the Giants 30-6. They also beat the Jets, 16-12 led by Josh Jacobs' 116 rushing yards and Davante Adams' 86 receiving yards.
The Raiders are off to a strong start under Pierce but their next seven games come against legitimate playoff teams with five opponents being over .500. They'll have to face some of the best quarterbacks in the league like Patrick Mahomes (twice), Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Josh Dobbs. Yet, the Raiders defense has been where they thrive. Maxx Crosby and Robert Spillane are two key players to build around in the Pierce tenure
If the Raiders can go 3-4 or 4-3, Pierce should be back as the permanent head coach but if they go 0-7 and get dismantled, the Raiders organization will need to go into a rebuild with players like Davante Adams, Jakobi Myers and Josh Jacobs being traded.
The only thing a team can control is the next game which is against the high-powered offense of the Dolphins. Tyreek Hill is certainly in the MVP conversation, averaging almost 120 yards per game, and prolific rookie De'Von Achane coming back from IR, should test their defense with motions and outside runs.
Pierce is off to a strong start but he'll need to keep winning to stay where he is.