By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL Writer
Holders of three Super Bowl titles, the Las Vegas Raiders haven’t won a playoff game since 2003.
In late January, the Raiders hired longtime New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as head coach to change the fortunes of this once-proud franchise.
Josh McDaniels on preparing for the Raiders job
Shortly after being hired by Las Vegas, Josh McDaniels spoke with Colin Cowherd about his new position, what he gained from his time as head coach with the Denver Broncos and the lessons he learned. learned from Tom Brady that he will bring to his relationship with the Raiders. QB Derek Carr.
In 2021, the Raiders had a turbulent season that included the resignation of coach Jon Gruden after an email scandal; the release of former first-round pick Henry Ruggs III after a high-speed car crash that killed the other driver; and the release of former first-round pick Damon Arnette after video emerged of him brandishing a gun while issuing death threats.
Just over a month into his job, McDaniels is taking a long-term view to retool the Raiders. At this point, he is still learning the staff.
“You have to be able to look at the whole year as an opportunity to build your team,” he told reporters during the NFL Scouting Combine this week. “It’s not just small windows in March or April. There are opportunities in professional free agency. There are opportunities in the draft. There are post-draft opportunities for players who haven’t not been picked up.
“Being patient and trying to grow your roster over time, taking a longer-term approach, is something we’ll try to do. We know we have areas we need to address at some point. , whether it’s front row or deep players.”
McDaniels’ first order of business was to fix the quarterback situation. He told the NFL Network that Derek Carr would “absolutely” be the team’s starting QB for the upcoming season. Carr, 30, still has one year left on his five-year, $125 million contract that is expected to pay him nearly $20 million in unsecured salary for the 2023 season. He would like a contract extension this offseason.
“I’ve met and spoken with Derek many times now, just trying to start our relationship,” McDaniels said. “I think it’s really important – the head coach, the point guard and the quarterback – getting to know each other as people, how we think and how we work.
“The football part will come later, which I think is also an important part of the puzzle. I’m really happy with the opportunity I had to know him. He’s over there in Nevada, stays in Nevada I “I’m really looking forward to working with him. He won a lot of matches. I feel good with what we can do with Derek as a quarterback.”
McDaniels is taking a more measured approach in his second stint as head coach. Of course, he died on his first attempt, going 11-17 with the Denver Broncos in 2009-10. He was sacked 12 games in his second season.
McDaniels’ reputation took another hit when he accepted and then left as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts four seasons ago. The Colts hired Frank Reich instead.
Now 45, McDaniels said those experiences prepared him for this opportunity. He also points out a big difference this time around having good friend Dave Ziegler as the Raiders’ general manager. Ziegler has the final say on all personnel decisions, including the 53-man roster.
“I don’t think there were many days where I was shocked or surprised at this point,” McDaniels told reporters this week. “Learning brand new things at this stage for me is a little different than I was 13 years ago.
“I’m at peace with the things we do every day. I know what my plan is when I wake up every morning. I really trust the people at [executive] positions to do their job very well, and I try to be the best possible support system for them while I try to do my job.”
Ziegler and McDaniels played on the same football team at Division III John Carroll University. In addition to them, the small Cleveland college has an impressive lineage of alumni and former coaches who worked in some capacity in the NFL, including retired linebacker London Fletcher, Baltimore’s offensive coordinator Ravens Greg Roman, Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco and Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell.
And the school stadium is named after Don Shula, who played halfback John Carroll.
“I wasn’t in school at the same time as them, so we didn’t run into each other,” Telesco said of McDaniels and Ziegler. “But I know them from being in the NFL. Dave Ziegler is a great guy, and he’s going to be a great general manager. And we’ve seen what Josh can do.
“It’s great for the John Carroll alumni association. It’s not great for the Los Angeles Chargers to have more John Carroll people associated with the Raiders because they have talent there. We We can see it. But I’m proud of these guys and can’t wait to compete with them.”
McDaniels and Ziegler have a lot of work to do in the coming months ahead of the Raiders’ first preseason game, the Hall of Fame Game against the Jaguars in Canton, Ohio on August 4.
The top unrestricted free agents for the Raiders include running back Jalen Richard, linebacker KJ Wright, quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. Las Vegas has about $21 million in space ceiling to work in free agency.
That doesn’t make it any easier for the Raiders who play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won six straight AFC West titles. The Raiders are 5-15 against the Chiefs over the past 10 seasons.
If McDaniels expects to make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl, he must find a way to consistently beat Kansas City.
He’s already won five Super Bowls with the Patriots, as Raiders owner Mark Davis looks to infuse his franchise with a culture that has created lasting success in New England.
However, Bill Belichick’s drive tree hasn’t been particularly successful outside of New England. Patriot assistants like Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Matt Patricia, Joe Judge and Eric Mangini have struggled as head coaches, while Bill O’Brien, Mike Vrabel and Brian Flores have had some success.
For McDaniels and Ziegler, establishing the Patriots Way in Las Vegas starts with developing a deeper, more talented roster.
“Really, for the whole team, I would say what we’re looking to do is make the competition stronger,” Ziegler said. “That’s a really big part of building a team. When you have competition up and down your roster, and people are being pushed, that’s really the goal.”
For the McDaniels and Ziegler tandem, simply focusing on the field is a good start for the Raiders.
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for over a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.
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