Why did the Raiders hire Antonio Pierce? Second-half success, team support lead to interim reportedly becoming full-time head coach

The Raiders hardly had to undergo any type of head-coaching search this offseason. Their next head coach solidified his position well before the 2023 season ended.

Las Vegas will reportedly name Antonio Pierce the next head coach of the franchise, according to various reports. He was the team’s interim coach for the final nine games of the season after the Raiders fired Josh McDaniels, who began the 2023 season with a record of 3-5.

The Raiders wound up interviewing only three candidates for the position: Pierce, former Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and former Saints defensive backs coach Kris Richard. Though there was a wave of qualified candidates in what many consider the strongest group of available head coaches in recent memory, Las Vegas appeared content with a smaller search.

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Now, it’s easy to see why the Raiders kept the search limited.

Why did the Raiders hire Antonio Pierce?

There are plenty of reasons why the Raiders wound up hiring Pierce. It starts with what happened on the field.

There was little reason to expect success out of Las Vegas for the remainder of the 2023 campaign after the Lions toppled the Raiders 26-14 on “Monday Night Football.” Jimmy Garoppolo continued his struggling season, and the defense got rolled over yet again. McDaniels was fired, and the look-ahead to the offseason began.

Enter Pierce. The Raiders, coached by Pierce and quarterbacked by rookie Aidan O’Connell, throttled the Giants 30-6 in Pierce’s first game as interim coach. The next week, they outlasted the Jets 16-12 to win two straight contests. Las Vegas went on a bit of a losing skid, falling in narrow games to the Dolphins, Chiefs and Vikings. It ended the year by walloping the Chargers 63-21 (leading to the firing of Chargers head coach Brandon Staley), beating the Chiefs on the road, losing by three to the Colts and thumping the Broncos by two scores.

The results spoke for themselves. Under McDaniels, a team with a veteran quarterback went 3-5. Under Pierce, a team led by a rookie quarterback went 5-4 with wins over three rivals. It was a remarkable turnaround for Pierce, who affirmed his status as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in football.

Pierce didn’t just win games with the Raiders. He won over the support of the team. During the offseason, defensive star Maxx Crosby made a major push to show support for Pierce. Crosby said on X (formerly Twitter) to “#HireAP” and said he would “consider everything” if the Raiders decided not to hire Pierce as the full-time head coach. It was later reported that “everything” could entail requesting a trade.

Crosby was not the only player to throw his full support behind Pierce. Star wide receiver Davante Adams also said his vote was for Pierce to return as the head coach in 2024.

Antonio Pierce coaching timeline

Piece had a meteoric rise in coaching. He retired as a player after the 2009 season when he was released by the Giants. He worked as an analyst with ESPN before he was hired to coach Long Beach Polytechnic High in 2014.

He left high-school coaching for collegiate coaching in 2018, when he joined Arizona State’s defensive staff. He spent two years as the linebackers coach and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator with long-time Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in 2020. He was also named associated head coach starting that season. The following year, he became the team’s head coach.

Before the start of the 2022 season, Pierce resigned from Arizona State as the school faced an NCAA investigation. He took a job as the linebackers coach with the Raiders and held that position until Oct. 31, 2023, when he was moved up to interim head coach following McDaniels’ firing.

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