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3 reasons why Las Vegas Raiders’ Dave Ziegler, Josh McDaniels are the perfect coach-GM pairing

Scott Gulbransen
Las Vegas Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders cleaned house organizationally, hiring general manager Dave Ziegler on Sunday and now introducing head coach Josh McDaniels.

While Ziegler is a well-respected young player personnel executive, McDaniels is a more polarizing hire among Raider Nation. It’s all due to his failed tenure in Denver over 12 seasons ago and his abrupt self-removal from the Colts’ open job a few years ago.

The criticism is a bit dated and unfair especially in light of his experience back in New England the past several seasons. Despite that reaction, owner Mark Davis targeted the tandem as a package and that might prove to be a stroke of brilliance.

The key to McDaniels working as head coach is Ziegler as GM. The two, together, make much more sense than they do separately.

Here are three reasons why Ziegler’s ascension to GM of the Raiders was a must before considering McDaniels as head coach.

Dave Ziegler is about three things: culture, culture, culture

We hear the word “culture” used all over sports and business, but what does it actually mean? For Ziegler, a Bill Belichick protege, it means everything. For McDaniels to be successful, he needs to share the organizational philosophy with his general manager. Considering the strong bond between McDaniels and Ziegler, it’s a given the two will remain on the same page in Las Vegas.

Davis realized if he wanted these two guys, he needed to clean house no matter how well some of the previous coaching staff or front office staff performed.

Former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi wrote about this beautifully on The Daily Coach. So many Belichick understudies (including McDaniels in Denver) failed because they attempted to retrain existing staff in a new culture. Instead, as Belichick learned after his aborted time in Cleveland, you must train people in the new culture to succeed. McDaniels most likely learned this himself and now has a shared vision with Ziegler on how to make the Raiders the winner its ownership and fans deserve.

Split roles and a united vision for football

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The Ziegler and McDaniels paring works so well because there is already an established level of trust and understanding (at least offensively) when it comes to roster evaluation. If McDaniels had to work with someone else, could he have refused head coaching overtures from NFL teams including the Raiders? Perhaps. McDaniels knows going to the Raiders includes someone he trusts and will help him build the roster and culture he believes will result in a winning program.

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If the Raiders would have hired a different general manager, the McDaniels hire may not have been on the table. The bold strategy to bring in a packaged deal could be a stroke of brilliance or a mistake. We’ll know in a few years.

Las Vegas Raiders roster provides talent to build around

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Not only is the Las Vegas Raiders brand, new stadium, tax-free locale, and mystique appealing to coaching and GM candidates, but the team is coming off a 10-7 season and a playoff berth. Yes, the Raiders got there on a thin margin but the roster is not bare of talent. By having a talented and focused talent evaluator like Ziegler in place, McDaniels knows the team can win and win quickly.

With a veteran quarterback in Derek Carr, young talent on defense like Maxx Crosby and Nate Hobbs, Ziegler can prudently build the roster this offseason to make sure the Raiders keep pace with the increasingly competitive AFC and AFC West.

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More importantly, the roster is good enough that Ziegler can add key talent via free agency, draft better than his predecessors and instantly put his own flair and philosophy into play. The state of the roster means McDaniels knows he’s closer to winning (and better job security) and will have input with his trusted partner to help quicken the process.