Three weeks into the 2023 season, the Raiders are 1-2 and there is some reason to believe that the Week 1 win over Denver could wind up being the team’s highlight of the entire year. That was a dramatic, one-point victory the Raiders barely pulled out thanks to a missed extra point, 17-16, against a team that has since given up 35 points at home to the Commanders and—ahem—70 points to the Dolphins.
The high-priced defensive end is going through … something. The defense has yet to force a turnover. The quarterback is trying to get over a concussion. The league-leading running back is averaging 36.0 yards per game. One All-Pro receiver has had three balls thrown his way all season, and the other All-Pro receiver said publicly that he does not have time to put up with the Raiders’ very, very steep learning curve.
We could go on, but you get the point. It’s already a disaster. But the question for the Raiders is what can be done about it? Well, of course, there’s always firing the coach, Josh McDaniels.
And according to ESPN insider Dan Graziano, that ought to be where this all ends, sooner rather than later.
“The franchise is in perceptibly worse shape than it was when McDaniels got there,” Graziano wrote on Wednesday. “Jimmy Garoppolo is already hurt. Davante Adams is making noise about being unhappy. It just feels like every move that has been made since the Adams trade has made the roster worse, and if they finish with one of the league’s worst records (which I believe to be extremely possible), how long will (owner) Mark Davis be willing to live with his mistake?”
Josh McDaniels an Expensive Mistake
And it does look like bringing over McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler from New England was a mistake, at least according to the early returns. When McDaniels arrived after the 2021 season, the Raiders were coming off a 10-7 year in which they went to the postseason. Coach Jon Gruden had resigned after being accused of using homophobic, racist and misogynistic language in emails during his previous gig at ESPN.
Rich Bisaccia, who had no NFL head-coaching experience before or since, went 7-5 as the fill-in. It truly looked like anyone could come in and coach the Raiders to a decent record.
But that anybody was McDaniels, who has brought the team backwards, to 6-11 last year TBD this year. And with Davis still owing Gruden an undisclosed portion of the 10-year, $100 million contract he’d signed in 2018, the Raiders added $10 million per year in coaching payouts for McDaniels.
That makes him hard to fire, and makes Davis more likely to be willing to live with his current mistake.
Fowler: ‘Let This One Play Out’
That was the view of Graziano’s ESPN colleague, Jeremy Fowler. There’s some irony in it, but the whopping amount by which the Raiders overpaid McDaniels—whose only previous head-coaching experience was when he posted a weak 11-17 two-season record as head coach of the Broncos—is the source of his job security.
The Raiders are paying McDaniels too much to fire him.
“It would have to be a pretty colossal breakdown from my view,” Fowler wrote of firing McDaniels. “Owner Mark Davis had a long-term vision in mind when he hired McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, and moving on would not be cheap. It doesn’t hurt to let this one play out.”