Less than two years after hiring Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, Mark Davis has decided to fire them both.
In a stunning announcement that came out of nowhere on Tuesday night, the Raiders owner revealed that he was going to be cleaning house by dumping his head coach and general manager.
“After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave,” Davis said in a statement. “I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
As recently as Oct. 1, Davis had defended McDaniels when some fans had called for him to be fired, but he clearly had a change of heart about his head coach in the weeks after.
McDaniels was on the hot seat after the Raiders got off to a 1-3 start, but things cooled down considerably after he led them to two straight wins with a 17-13 victory over the Packers in Week 5 and a 21-17 win over the Patriots in Week 6. However, the Raiders offense has taken a giant step back over the past two weeks, which clearly led to some serious frustrations for Davis.
The Raiders got destroyed 30-12 by a Bears team they were favored to beat in Week 7 and then they followed that up with a 26-14 loss to the Lions on Monday night in Week 8 in a game where Las Vegas only gained 157 yards of total offense. Those two losses dropped the Raiders to 3-5 and apparently, Davis finally decided that he had seen enough.
With McDaniels running the offense, the Raiders didn’t hit the 20-point mark a single time through their first eight games, which is the longest drought by an NFL team to start a season since 2009.
Through the first eight weeks, the Raiders offense has been one of the worst in the NFL in nearly every major statistical category. The team ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (70.0) and 29th overall in points per game (15.8). Their third-down conversion rate ranked 30th overall and they ranked 27th overall in yards per play. Basically, the offense was a disaster.
The other thing that didn’t help McDaniels is that the Raiders suffered some embarrassing losses under his watch. In the loss to the Bears, the Raiders were facing a former D-II quarterback (Tyson Bagent), who was making his first start ever. In 2022, he lost to a Colts team that was being coached by Jeff Saturday, who had been coaching high school football the week before the Raiders game. Later that season, the Raiders also lost to a Rams team that was led by Baker Mayfield, who had been with the Rams for less than a week prior to beating Las Vegas.
With McDaniels now fired, linebackers coach Antonio Pierce is expected to be named their interim head coach, according to ESPN.com. Pierce has almost no NFL coaching experience. The 45-year-old is in just his second season as an NFL assistant after spending four years at Arizona State in various roles, including associate head coach. However, he did spend nine seasons as an NFL player, with four of those coming in Washington (2001-04) and five with the Giants (2005-09).
Pierce will now become the third interim head coach to take over the team since Davis became owner following the death of his father, Al, in October 2011. Davis fired Dennis Allen after Week 4 in 2014 and replaced him with interim coach Tony Sparano. In October 2021, Jon Gruden resigned following an email controversy and RIch Bisaccia took over after that.
Davis hired McDaniels and Ziegler as a pair in January 2022 with the hope that the duo would be able to turn the Raiders into a West Coast version of the Patriots. Ziegler was a Patriots executive for nine seasons before taking the GM job in Las Vegas. One of Ziegler’s first big moves with the Raiders was to give Derek Carr an extension in April 2022, only to cut him less than a year later.
Davis could have certainly fired McDaniels and kept Ziegler, but he obviously felt that it made more sense to fire them together.
The decision to fire McDaniels and Ziegler came just nine hours after the NFL’s trade deadline, so it will be interesting to see if that factored into the decision. It’s certainly possible the three of them butted heads on a day where the Raiders didn’t end up making any trades, despite having several notable players who could have been dealt like Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams.
McDaniels, the first coach to be fired this season, will finish his Raiders career with a 9-16 record. According to ESPN, McDaniels signed a six-year contract when he was hired, which means he didn’t even make it through one-third of the deal. The 45-year-old is the first coach in the Super Bowl era to be fired during the middle of the season by two different teams. McDaniels was fired by the Broncos in December 2010 after less than two years on the job in Denver.