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Raiders drop interim label, name Pierce head coach

Antonio Pierce Las Vegas Raiders Antonio Pierce - The Canadian Press

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Las Vegas Raiders players lobbied for Antonio Pierce to be the full-time head coach since he stepped in as the interim at midseason.

On Friday, Pierce officially got the gig.

The Raiders announced the hiring of Pierce as their new coach, crossing out the word “interim” in a post on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter. He's the fourth interim coach the Raiders have elevated, joining Art Shell, Tom Cable and Marty Feldman.

Pierce, 45, took over as interim coach on Halloween night after Josh McDaniels was fired. The Raiders went 5-4 under his watch and the team went 8-9 overall.

“Why wouldn’t we keep going the direction we’re going?” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said after a 27-14 victory over Denver on Jan. 7. “The fact we’ve come together and done something special in such a short time is hard to do. We’ve got a guy who’s played at the highest level, won a Super Bowl, he’s been a captain, and now he’s a great coach and he’s a leader.”

Pierce also won over much of the fan base. The crowd chanted “AP!” as the game against the Broncos was winding down.

“Can’t think of anyone more deserving," Las Vegas tackle Jermaine Eluemunor posted on X. "The Raider way is the only way that needs to be in Vegas.”

Pierce will be charged with restoring a championship pedigree to a once-iconic franchise that has missed the playoffs in 19 of the past 21 seasons.

NFL hiring rules prohibited owner Mark Davis from hiring Pierce outright. Davis had to interview at least two external minority and/or female candidates in person to satisfy the Rooney rule. He did that.

The Raiders interviewed former Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. ESPN reported the club also interviewed former New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

Pierce is the second Black coach to receive a head job during this hiring cycle. The New England Patriots promoted Jerod Mayo to replace Bill Belichick.

The Raiders are the only NFL team with a Black coach, general manager and president. The GM, however, is an interim in Champ Kelly, though he also could get the job full time. Kelly has long been considered a strong candidate to get the position, but the fact he wasn’t announced along with Pierce’s hire raises questions.

Davis told The Athletic he has thought about about hiring a director of football operations, so it’s possible he is reorganizing the front office that could still include Kelly.

Davis hired from outside two years ago in going with McDaniels over player favorite Rich Bisaccia, who led the Raiders on an unlikely late run to make the playoffs.

Pierce will have to make decisions regarding his staff, and it's most likely he will take a close look at his offense. Bo Hardegree became the interim offensive coordinator when Mick Lombardi was fired at midseason, but it's possible and maybe even likely Pierce goes outside the organization for the OC.

Beyond that, Pierce will have to work with whoever becomes the general manager on personnel issues, including what to do at quarterback. Pierce installed rookie Aidan O’Connell as the starter. He improved as the season progressed, but didn’t erase concerns about the need for a franchise quarterback. The Raiders pick 13th in this year’s draft, so the top QBs likely will be gone by the time they select.

The future of running back Josh Jacobs also will need to be resolved. After leading the NFL in rushing in 2022, Jacobs got into a contract dispute after the Raiders placed the franchise tag on him. The sides agreed to a one-year deal after training camp. Jacobs’ production dropped from 1,653 yards to 805 this season and he missed the final month because of a quadriceps injury.


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.