Josh McDaniels acknowledged Monday in his introductory news conference as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders that he wasn’t ready for the position in his first go-around, more than a decade earlier with the Denver Broncos.
And he did so after admitting something else to Raiders owner Mark Davis.
“When I went to Denver, I knew a little bit of football,” McDaniels said of his 28-game tenure with the Broncos over the 2009 and ’10 seasons. “I didn’t really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. I failed, and I didn’t succeed at it.
“Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach. What do I need to do different, how do I need to handle my role, if I have another opportunity, and do better at it?”
McDaniels, who was just 33 years old when the Broncos plucked him off the New England Patriots’ staff, was fired by Denver after posting an 11-17 record. He went to the then-St. Louis Rams in 2011 as their offensive coordinator and back to the Patriots a year later before verbally accepting the head job with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, then backing out.
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McDaniels said the Raiders, who also hired his good friend and Patriots confidant in Dave Ziegler as general manager, presented the right opportunity at the right time.
“I was very impressed with how exhaustive they were, just in their evaluation of me and my fit and how I would fit into their vision, and then you come out and you spend time with them, you meet the people, you see that everything is done in a first-class manner,” said McDaniels, who has been an NFL offensive coordinator/playcaller since 2006. “Their commitment to winning is easy to feel, to see, and, to me, walking through this building and having a sense of the history and tradition of this organization and how much that impacts the day-to-day here, it really hit me.
“This is one of those iconic places, and it’s a historic organization that has unbelievable history and tradition. It’s in every hallway. Just getting to know them, feeling their commitment and understanding that that really married up with what my vision would be for another opportunity. It was easy to make the choice.”
No Raiders players attended the news conference, which was held in the team auditorium. Several high-profile players such as quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby had openly campaigned for interim coach Rich Bisaccia to get the job after he led the team to a 10-7 record and the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2016, its second since 2002.
Carr will be entering the final year of his five-year, $125 million contract and is scheduled to make just over $19.8 million. Neither McDaniels nor Ziegler, who said he would have final say on personnel matters, was ready to commit long term to Carr. At least, not on Day 1 of their new regime.
“Derek has won a lot of games in this league and we’ve competed against each other a number of times, and I have a lot of respect for him,” McDaniels said. “He certainly did a good job this year leading their offense. I spoke with him yesterday. We had a great conversation. Looking forward to actually getting to meet him and get to know him as a person, as a human being, and then getting to work in terms of developing our offense this year into what it’s going to be.
“But there’s no question that we have the capacity and capability of winning with Derek here. We all know that. I look forward to the challenge of trying to grow, not only Derek, but everybody on the roster to try to reach our potential.”
Said Ziegler: “The one thing that we all understand is there’s going to be a process of us learning Derek, Derek learning us, and fitting all those pieces together … understanding what Derek does well. Derek understanding what Josh and the offensive staff is trying to build, and I think as that collaboration goes, then you kind of see how everything fits together.”
The Raiders this past season had just the 26th-ranked red zone offense in terms of points per drive (McDaniels’ Patriots red zone offense was sixth), and Las Vegas was 27th in red zone touchdown percentage (the Patriots, with a rookie QB in Mac Jones, were 11th).
In his decade-plus running the Raiders, Davis has overseen deconstructions and reconstructions, always with some Raiders DNA and/or influence in the decision. This time, he leaned on longtime adviser Ken Herock, whom he described as the “ringleader” in finding a new coach and GM after Jon Gruden was forced to resign in October in the wake of his email scandal and Mike Mayock was fired the Monday following the playoff loss at the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. Davis and Herock’s goal was to go outside the box and find “teammates” to work together.
“Jon and Mike had built a foundation,” Davis said. “Moving forward, that’s what [Ziegler and McDaniels] are going to be building upon. We’ve got some great players in this organization right now. I believe there’s a great culture in this organization right now, which is what they will find. They haven’t seen that as much yet because they haven’t seen all the players together, but that’s something that Rich had built over the last six months — a fantastic culture in this building.
“It’s not a rebuild. It’s not a reload. It’s just taking this to the next level and getting to that Super Bowl and winning some championships.”
And that pre-interview admission Saturday from McDaniels, who joined the Patriots as a personnel assistant in 2001 and had a front-row seat for the Tuck Rule game that postseason?
“He looked me in the eye and he said, ‘It was a fumble,'” Davis said, laughing. “So, Raider Nation, if you’re worried, he’s already come over to the Dark Side.”
“True story,” he said.
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