The Las Vegas Raiders picked up perhaps the biggest upset of Week 16 when they went on the road to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-14. While the offense never got in the end zone, Antonio Pierce’s defense made up for it with a pair of touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the second quarter, capped by a Jack Jones pick-six of Patrick Mahomes.
It was the Raiders’ second straight victory and kept the team’s slim playoff hopes alive. They even have an outside chance at winning the division if they win out and the Chiefs drop their final two games. But the main story has been the energy surrounding this team ever since Pierce took over as interim head coach.
Pierce has the support of everyone in the Raiders locker room, and Jones is chief among them. After the win, Jones spoke about Pierce letting the players just go out there and be themselves and how important that has been for their success, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“For sure. I mean, it’s not even just me I don’t even wanna make it personal, it’s the team. Coach AP allows everybody to go out there and be themselves and play football and have love for the game. When you got a coach that’s ‘Don’t do this!’ or you know that’s kinda strict, it takes the fun out of the game. We’re professional athletes, we’ve been doing this for however many years, we understand the do’s and don’ts. With Coach AP allowing us to play, you can see it through the team, it’s noticeable.”
Some coaches can tend to be a bit overbearing which can wear on the players, especially veterans who have been in the game for a long time. It is one thing when that style is producing results, but if that is coming in the wake of losses piling up, it will cause a problem in the locker room every time. Jones has spoken on the impact Pierce has had on himself personally, but the coach has been a breath of fresh air for the entire team.
He has allowed the players to go out and play the game that they love and bring fun back to the Raiders and the results speak for themselves. The Raiders still have flaws and things they need to correct, but the team as a whole just looks much better and more energized. Not to mention, this style has not resulted in undisciplined play as the Raiders are the least penalized team in the NFL.
Considering the results on the field, and the backing of key players like Jones, Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams, it’s gonna be very hard to not remove that interim tag and make Antonio Pierce the permanent head coach of the Raiders.