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Updates on Raiders’ General Manager and Head Coach Positions

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While Antonio Pierce‘s experience level would make him one of the most unusual head coach hires in NFL history, it looks like the linebackers coach-turned-interim leader is the clubhouse leader to secure the job. The Raiders are considering running it all back.

Champ Kelly has gone through a second GM interview, according to The Athletic’s Tashan Reed. Pierce has already completed his coaching interview. Although the Raiders have not necessarily been adamant the Kelly-Pierce tandem stay together, this looks to be a scenario that is very much in play.

On the surface, the Raiders sticking with two Josh McDaniels-era hires would be extraordinarily odd considering how quickly McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler were dismissed. Kelly has a history with Ziegler, from their time together in Denver, but did not work for the Patriots. Pierce only worked with McDaniels and Ziegler over the past two seasons, coming back to the NFL after four seasons at Arizona State. Top Raiders players, a contingent driven by Maxx Crosby, want Pierce back. They may soon get their wish.

Initially pegged as set to attempt a swing for a big-name HC, Mark Davis looks to be taking his players’ views seriously re: Pierce. The former linebacker’s knowledge of Raiders history and their culture has appealed to the owner, whose previous big swings — on McDaniels and another Jon Gruden stint — whiffed. Still, with Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel available, it would be interesting to see the Raiders pass on requesting interviews with any of them.

Raiders interviews with Kris Richard and Leslie Frazier have satisfied the Rooney Rule, which mandates clubs meet with at least two external minority candidates before hiring a head coach. These two represent the only external candidates interviewed for the job at all, with the Raiders initially focusing on their GM position. It would seem a misstep on Davis’ part to hire Pierce without exploring the field, but the owner has expressed regret about not hiring former interim HC Rich Bisaccia two years ago.

The Raiders do not view Pierce and Kelly as a package deal, per SI.com’s Albert Breer, who adds Ed Dodds — the Colts’ assistant GM who impressed during his 2022 interview with the Raiders — is viewed as Kelly’s top threat for the gig. Dodds met with Davis during this cycle on Jan. 12. A Pierce-Dodds partnership would be in play as well, given the interim HC’s lack of history with Kelly. But the partnership that helped the Raiders finish 5-4 post-McDaniels may still be favored to return. Kelly has been viewed as firmly in the mix to stay for a few weeks now.

Las Vegas’ first round of GM interviews wrapped this weekend; a decision should be expected soon. Dodds impressing back in 2022 and remaining on the team’s radar would point to the seven-year Colts exec receiving a second meeting as well. A Seahawks scout for 10 years, Dodds has a history with the Raiders. The veteran personnel man began his NFL career interning with the team while Al Davis was still in place. Dodds was with the Raiders from 2003-06. He has since been on several teams’ GM radars and has been integral to the Colts building a quality roster — one held back for years by an inconsistent QB situation.

If Pierce is to be back, it might point Patrick Graham out of town. A five-year defensive coordinator, Graham has considerably more experience coaching in the NFL than Pierce. With Pierce’s background on defense, Graham may seek an opportunity elsewhere. The Raiders have not interviewed Graham for their HC job yet. Pierce’s unique lack of experience would also likely lead to him prioritizing seasoned staffers. One of them may be veteran DC Gregg Williams, according to the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora.

Out of the league since his two-year run as Jets DC ended ignominiously late in the 2020 season, Williams has been a defensive coordinator for eight teams. He spent last season as the defensive boss for the XFL’s DC Defenders. Williams, 65, is best remembered for his role in the Saints’ Bountygate scandal, but the former Bills HC has remained employable since. Pierce and Williams have a strong bond, per La Canfora. This would date back to the two’s time in Washington; in place as Washington’s DC from 2004-07, Williams coached Pierce in 2004 — before the standout linebacker signed with the Giants a year later.

The Jaguars are also interested in Williams, La Canfora adds. Jacksonville may be prioritizing experience in its search to replace Mike Caldwell as DC; four current or former coordinators received interview requests. Williams was in place as the Jags’ DC in 2008, a one-year tenure under Jack Del Rio in 2008.

In addition to Davis, the Raiders have a handful of staffers — along with recent Hall of Fame inductee Richard Seymour, a Raider from 2009-12 — on their interview panel. Team president Sandra Douglass Morgan, director of football administration Tom Delaney, board member Larry Delsen and advisor Ken Herock join Davis and Seymour, per Reed. Davis described Herock, a longtime Raiders consigliere, as the ringleader of the searches that led to McDaniels and Ziegler being hired two years ago. We heard in the fall he and Delaney would play roles in the team’s latest searches. Al Davis once approached Seymour about a future front office role, Breer adds, noting the star D-lineman also helped Mark Davis during his years as Raiders owner. It would not surprise if the four-year Raiders defender was tapped to play a key role in the next regime.


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