Pierce Faces Uphill Battle To Show He Should Be The Raiders Coach

Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce stands on the field during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce stands on the field during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Antonio Pierce knows the NFL is a results-based business, and he has five games remaining to prove his case that the Raiders should remove the interim tag and name him the head coach.

“I’m racing time now,” Pierce said Monday. “Clock is ticking. It’s almost over. I get it. But the best part about it, I know whenever this is over that I’ve gotten better.”

Las Vegas is 2-2 since he replaced the fired Josh McDaniels, with victories over both New York teams that are a combined 8-15 and losses to Miami and Kansas City, each 8-3 and leaders of their respective divisions.

So no surprises there, and there isn't enough evidence yet that Pierce should be the Raiders coach past this season. Also no evidence that he shouldn't be that person.

But what's to come after the bye week doesn't exactly work in Pierce's favor.

Four of the Raiders' final five games are against teams with winning records, including a rematch with the Chiefs in Kansas City. The only team with a losing record, the 4-7 Los Angeles Chargers, already beat Las Vegas 24-17 on Oct. 1, and Justin Herbert is one of the league's most talented quarterbacks.

The Raiders did beat one of those final five opponents, opening the season with a 17-16 victory at Denver. But the Broncos are riding a five-game winning streak at the moment, and Russell Wilson is finding his old playmaking groove.

If Pierce can at least be competitive down the stretch and maybe even steal a victory or two, he could make a strong argument to keep the job. He also would have history working in his favor, with the memory fresh from two years ago of Davis bypassing interim coach Rich Bisaccia — who had just taken the Raiders to the playoffs — in favor of the big name in McDaniels.

A move that in retrospect didn't work out.

Davis, however, has shown a tendency to go for the shiny object, giving a 10-year contract to lure Jon Gruden from the broadcast booth in 2018. If a coach emerges after this season who will be an attention-grabber (see: Michigan's Jim Harbaugh), Davis could try to make a play for him.

Pierce understands the business and isn't making any assumptions.

“I've got five weeks,” Pierce said. “Get right. If I don’t get right, I’ll have a lot more time off — 52 weeks. I can do the math.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Josh Jacobs has gotten going under Pierce. He had one down game, gaining 39 yards against the Dolphins. Jacobs otherwise rushed for 98, 116 and 110 yards. This was much closer to the back who led the NFL in rushing last season, and the Raiders will need this kind of production to close the season. It also would help Jacobs' argument for a new contract, though probably only so much given the financial climate for running backs.

WHAT NEEDS WORK

Pierce has made some odd in-game decisions, playing ultra safe two weeks in a row. He didn't attack the end zone a week ago at Miami when Las Vegas recovered a fumble at the Dolphins 32 with 58 seconds left. Then, on Sunday against Kansas City, the Raiders had a fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 12 while up 7-0 and opted for a field goal that missed. It was as if McDaniels, not exactly known for his aggressiveness in Las Vegas, had never left the sideline.

STOCK UP

Not that anyone has questioned Maxx Crosby's toughness, but it was on display again Sunday. The defensive end was doubtful because of a knee injury and even spent time in a hospital Thursday night. But Crosby was on the field against the Chiefs and even sacked Patrick Mahomes at one point.

STOCK DOWN

Hard to believe given how outstanding they usually are, but special teams were a letdown against the Chiefs. Daniel Carlson, who owns the top four single-season field goal percentages in team history, missed a 30-yard attempt. AJ Cole entered the game with a 51.9-yard gross punting average and 47.1 net average, but finished with averages of 39.0 and 35.7.

Also, the Raiders waived cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Roderic Teamer on Monday. Peters signed just before training camp. Teamer was arrested Saturday night on charges of driving under the influence and speeding.

INJURIES

There were no updates.

KEY NUMBER

0 — The Raiders for the first time in franchise history had zero accepted penalties and zero turnovers. Las Vegas became the first team to lose under that scenario since Jacksonville in 2002.

NEXT STEPS

The Raiders host the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 10.

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