The Las Vegas Raiders ended the season on a high note with a 27-14 victory over the division-rival Denver Broncos. After a rough start, Antonio Pierce took over for Josh McDaniels mid-season and an entirely different energy has surrounded the team ever since.
While the Raiders finished 8-9, it was still a strong finish to the season overall as they won three of their last four games and finished second in the division. Now the question going forward is whether Pierce will be tabbed to take over the team permanently.
One thing that isn’t in question is the job Pierce has done as interim coach and Raiders owner Mark Davis gave him credit for taking over and pushing the Raiders to a strong end to the season, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN:
“Yeah, I think the team really played well down the stretch, and I think going 4-2 in the division is really a positive for us,” Davis said. “Obviously, that’s what we have to take care of first is the division. And we went into Kansas City, in a tough game, and beat them [20-14 on Christmas Day], and we took care of Denver here at home to end the season.”
But don’t expect a decision to be made any time soon as Davis noted there will be a process before making the final choice:
“I have to go through the process of interviews, setting up interviews and then letting you know what we’re doing,” Davis said.
And any time frame?
“Nope, Probably before next season,” Davis said jokingly.
What the ultimate decision will be is unclear, but University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has been mentioned as a possibility as well. Pierce, however, has the support of the current Raiders players, as well as numerous legends of the franchise, some of whom celebrated with the team inside the locker room after the season-ending victory.
Pierce isn’t sure whether he’ll get the job permanently either, but believes he has a great foundation to build on if he continues with the Raiders as permanent head coach:
“You just keep growing, I mean, you talk about culture, you talk about foundation, you talk about your DNA, talk about what you want it to look like, your structure, your coaches, your players, having your identity,” he said. “To me, our players and our coaches will be a reflection of me and I’ll go forward as we move into this bad boy. But there’s a lot of things that I can still grow from.
“This is a great experience, great kickstart. I think we do have a solid foundation that we’ve built so far, but there’s more to go and, no excuse, but it is difficult to do in the middle of the season and to get guys to buy in and really believe that that’s how you’re going to win and that’s the way to win. [If] we have time to do presentations, put that in OTAs, minicamps, training camp, get that bonding, that chemistry together, I think it’ll be a pretty thing to watch.”
The Raiders have a lot to figure out this offseason and certainly have something to build on. Whether Pierce will be the guy to build remains to be seen, but he has made his case without a doubt.