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Why Josh McDaniels has already been a failure and the Las Vegas Raiders are stuck with him

Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders received mixed grades after naming Josh McDaniels as their head coach, with some analysts declaring it a home-run hire and others casting more skepticism on the move. After 13 games, it can only be described as a failure.

McDaniels flamed out with the Denver Broncos, being fired after a 3-9 season late in the 2010 season and not long after an illegal videotaping controversy under his watch. He quickly landed on his feet as the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011.

  • Josh McDaniels coaching record: 16-25

During his lone season in St. Louis, the Rams had the second-worst offense in the NFL. McDaniels’ unit ranked 31st in total yards per game (283.6) and averaged just 12.1 points per game. St. Louis finished last in Football Outsiders’ Offense DVOA (-27.6%) and posted the worst third-down conversion rate (28.1%) in the NFL.

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McDaniels was fired after the season, returning to the New England Patriots in his familiar role as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He then backed out on the Indianapolis Colts after they announced him as their head coach.

Pursued by teams with head-coaching vacancies in the following years, McDaniels ultimately accepted the Raiders’ position this offseason. A moment that was meant to serve as a turning point for the franchise has instead become an utter disaster.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders schedule

Josh McDaniels’ failures at the basics

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels established his hyperfocus on the details at the start of training camp. After years of the Raiders being bogged down by countless mistakes, penalties and a lack of accountability, McDaniels wanted to change that.

Coming from New England, discipline and smart football were pillars that McDaniels preached to the team and brought up repeatedly to reporters. After committing seven penalties for 90 yards in Week 14, Las Vegas has proven nothing has changed under McDaniels.

YearPenalties per GamePenalty Yards per Game
20206.1 (26th in NFL)53.5 (25th in NFL)
20217.3 (31st in NFL)63.9 (31st in NFL)
20226.6 (27th in NFL)55.8 (30th in NFL)
Las Vegas Raiders penalty statistics

While the number of penalties committed by an opponent can be attributed to poor luck, self-inflicted errors and negative yardage reflects on a coaching staff. The Raiders brought in plenty of new faces this offseason, including those familiar with the ‘Patriot Way’ that McDaniels wanted. It still hasn’t made a difference.

Even if this issue is put aside, there are plenty of other issues that highlight why McDaniels has proven he is not fit to be an NFL head coach. Among them is what happens to his team in critical situations.

  • Las Vegas Raiders stats: 38.5% third-down conversion rate (23rd), 10.2 second-half PPG (20th), 6.2 fourth-quarter PPG (17th), 49.95% red-zone touchdown rate (29th)

The statistics reflect what fans have seen throughout the NFL season. On Thursday Night Football, Las Vegas became just the fourth team in the last five seasons to lose when leading by 13-plus points in the final four minutes of a game in 555 instances.

Related: Winners, losers from Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 14 loss

Taking things one step further, as noted by Josh Dubow, Las Vegas is 0-4 this season when it leads by double digits at halftime. It makes the Raiders the first NFL team in nearly a century to lose four times in a single season when it holds a double-digit lead after the second quarter.

McDaniels’ offense deserves a significant share of the blame. In the 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Raiders racked up 235 total yards in the first half. After that, this unit played like the worst offense in the NFL.

  • Las Vegas Raiders offense (1st half vs LAR): 235 total yards, 13 points, 6.18 yards per play
  • Las Vegas Raiders offense (2nd half vs LAR): 67 total yards, 3 points, 3.35 yards per play

Las Vegas kept putting the ball in Josh Jacobs’ hands, despite the All-Pro candidate playing through a quad, calf and pinky injury. Meanwhile, Davante Adams received just three targets after making big plays on Jalen Ramsey in the first half.

McDaniels isn’t doing the very things the Raiders brought him in to accomplish, failing to even meet his own talking points before the season. Yet, Las Vegas is going to be stuck with him in 2023 because of owner Mark Davis.

Mark Davis, Raiders can’t afford to fire Josh McDaniels

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s extremely rare for an NFL team to fire a head coach after one season. Outside of unusual circumstances – Urban Meyer -it requires a historically-bad season for an owner to cut ties with the coach he just hired less than a year earlier.

Davis is in an even worse position, even if he wanted to fire McDaniels. The Raiders had stadium financing issues in 2021 and faced allegations of financial mismanagement. Multiple NFL insiders have shared how Davies is viewed as the most “cash-poor” owner in football and it’s believed to be part of the reason why he can’t fire McDaniels.

When former head coach Jon Gruden resigned, he was still owed nearly $40 million and Davis had to reach a financial settlement with him. Las Vegas also committed to more than $400 million in contracts this offseason.

Davis already offered the Raiders’ coach a vote of confidence before Las Vegas won three games in a row against the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Chargers. While this team is on pace to finish worse than it did in a 2021 season filled with tragedy and off-field issues, Josh McDaniels can feel safe in Las Vegas even if his track record merits being fired.

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