Raiders Stars Empowered by Firing ‘Witch’ Josh McDaniels: Report

Davante Adams (left) of the Raiders has been one of the player leaders since the firing of coach Josh McDaniels

Getty Davante Adams (left) of the Raiders has been one of the player leaders since the firing of coach Josh McDaniels

Of all the things that ex-Raiders coach Josh McDaniels could be compared to over the year-and-a-half he was in Las Vegas, the Wicked Witch of the West is probably not high on the list. But that’s where one team source went, anonymously, in talking with Diana Russini of The Athletic about the changes that have taken hold since McDaniels was fired.

That took place on October 31. The Raiders won their first two games thereafter, under interim head coach Antonio Pierce. But no question, the Raiders players — with quarterback Aidan O’Connell promoted and postgame cigars now a thing — have taken over. Star receiver Davante Adams has been among the most outspoken since the change.

“It’s like ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead,’ since Josh McDaniels and (general manager) Dave Ziegler were shown the door,” Russini quoted her source as saying.

She went on to write, “The witch, of course, symbolizes McDaniels’ no-nonsense, often demanding style of coaching and presence in the building. He ran a tight ship and had high expectations for his staff and roster. Almost all the current assistants are Josh McDaniels hires now working for a new boss.”

That new boss is Pierce, who has not had a whole lot of head-coaching experience in the past—he was a head coach at Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, California, but had been an assistant with Herm Edwards at Arizona State before joining McDaniels’ Raiders staff.

Raiders Could Learn Interim Lesson on Antonio Pierce

Still, Pierce has a wealth of experience as a player, having played nine seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, with Washington and the Giants. He worked his way from an undrafted free agent out of Arizona to a Pro Bowl selection in 2006, and helped New York to the 2007 Super Bowl championship.

Pierce is just 45 years old and has been able to create a bond with players that Josh McDaniels could never replicate.

Raiders legend and NFL analyst Howie Long told Kay Adams this week he supports Pierce getting the Raiders job beyond this season’s interim tag, and compared the situation to that of former interim Rich Bisaccia, who led the team to the playoffs in 2020 after replacing Jon Gruden.

Bisaccia was not given a chance to keep the job, and was replaced by Josh McDaniels.

“Love it,” Long said. “Love the story. … Time will tell. I think (Pierce’s) eyes are wide open in terms of, it’s an opportunity. And I think the Rich Bisaccia situation a couple of years ago when they got into the playoffs, and surprised some people, he closed out the year really well and he seemed like he had a grasp of who the team was, there was an identity, there was a culture. I think Mark probably learned something from that.”

New Raiders Problem in Wake of Josh McDaniels Action?

One of the issues that Antonio Pierce could have, though, is something that would never have been a problem with Josh McDaniels—giving the players too much power. Russini brought that up in her column, noting that the Raiders changed their travel plans this weekend at the request of the team’s star players, leaving for Miami on Saturday instead of on Friday.

“Many in the Raiders organization wonder if this new player-empowerment style is sustainable or if all the change is just a quick shot in the arm after weeks of misery,” Russini wrote.

As Long stated, time will tell. After the Dolphins, the Raiders get four games against opponents with a combined 24-13 record. It’s tough going, but at least the Raiders as a team are happier without Josh McDaniels around.


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