Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce leaning on two-time Super Bowl winning coach for advice

Antonio Pierce is new at this head coaching thing, and the gig’s been going well so far. Since taking over the Las Vegas Raiders following Josh McDaniels’s firing, Pierce is 2-0 at the helm with his biggest test yet Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

And while he’s putting his own twist on coaching as he attempts to secure the permanent job, he hasn’t done this alone. A league source tells CBS Sports that Pierce has leaned on his head coach from his playing days, Tom Coughlin, to help him navigate head-coaching waters.

Pierce went undrafted out of Arizona in 2001 and signed with Washington. After four seasons there he signed with the Giants as a starting linebacker in 2005, Coughlin’s second year coaching New York.

Pierce was a captain for the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII team, and he played five seasons there before retiring at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

Coughlin is famous — or infamous, depending upon who you talk to — for how he runs his ship. “Coughlin Time” meant meetings started five minutes early. In the Jaguars facilities, clocks were actually set back five minutes.

Pierce has leaned on Coughlin for advice on how to schedule things out day-to-day, a source says. Coughlin is a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach and potential future Pro Football Hall of Famer, so Pierce wants to lend his ear when Coughlin speaks.

Pierce’s only previous head coaching experience came between 2014-2017 when he led Long Beach Poly High School in California.

What makes it particularly unique is that Pierce could almost be described as an anti-Coughlin coach. The Raiders locker room was up in smoke after their Week 9 win against the Giants as players danced and celebrated with Pierce — finally out from under the morale-crushing eye of McDaniels. He then gave the players a Victory Monday and a break until Wednesday, when they then prepared for their victory against the Jets in Week 10.

Another source tells CBS Sports that the changes under Pierce have involved players taking ownership of the situation while communication has improved with everyone in the building. Players have been told to be themselves and embrace their differences, and a stronger Raiders locker room has emerged in the last three weeks.

Pierce has a tall task ahead of him the next two games. After defeating the Giants and Jets, he gets two teams that don’t struggle offensively in the Dolphins and Chiefs before a Week 13 bye. How the Raiders compete in those games against playoff-caliber opponents will set the stage for the final stanza after the bye.

A league source said he felt Mark Davis regretted not keeping Rich Bisaccia, and he may not want to make the same mistake again. Bisaccia took over for Jon Gruden in 2021 when he resigned amid old racist emails surfacing, and he coached the team to a 7-5 record that helped them get into the playoffs. It’s still the team’s only postseason appearance since 2017, and only its second since losing the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.

It’s thought that Davis will let this play out with Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly. The Raiders are a half-game out of a wild card spot heading into Week 11 with playoff contenders up next with whom to compare themselves.

It’s very possible Pierce (and Kelly for that matter) can earn the permanent job in Las Vegas. Davis is thought to target a player-centric head coach, and he can’t interview any GM candidate currently employed by another team until the conclusion of the regular season. Kelly had previously interviewed for the head job before getting the assistant GM role under Dave Ziegler two years ago.

With millions in buyouts to Jon Gruden, McDaniels and Ziegler, and with interims getting wins right now in Las Vegas, it’s not impossible that Mark Davis decides to keep a good thing rolling. So long as they, indeed, keep it rolling.

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