A few weeks ago, a large portion of the Las Vegas Raiders fanbase assumed the team would launch an extensive search for a new head coach and general manager. Many asked for a shortlist of candidates for both positions. Well, how about we start with Rich Bisaccia and Mike Mayock?
As an interim head coach, Bisaccia has a 7-5 record and led the Raiders to their first playoff appearance in five seasons. While some believe that he’s nothing more than a successful stopgap for a bigger name such as Jim Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin or Sean Payton, who have all popped up in rumors connected to the Raiders, the longtime special teams coach could retain his position with some postseason success.
Rich Bisaccia hanging on to a chance
How many playoff wins does Bisaccia need to keep the job?
If the Raiders beat the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday and play well in the divisional round, owner Mark Davis may not be eager to replace Bisaccia with anyone other than a big name with an accomplished resume.
Nonetheless, Davis must consider the big picture. Is Bisaccia’s coaching style conducive to winning in the long term? He’s certainly grown in his position over the past month. The 61-year-old has come a long way from kicking a field goal while down 35-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs going into halftime.
Since their 48-9 loss to the Chiefs, the Raiders have executed well on third down, converting on 46% of their attempts over the past four games. For perspective, only the Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills matched or topped that conversion rate for the season, per Team Rankings.
On top of that, Vegas has converted all five of its fourth-down attempts since Week 15. Bisaccia isn’t coaching to avoid losses; he’s pushing for the win with an aggressive approach.
Bisaccia is the first interim head coach to lead a team into the playoffs since Bruce Arians did it with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, though the league awarded the wins and losses to Chuck Pagano. On the books, Wally Lemm accomplished the feat with the Houston Oilers in 1961.
If the Raiders win a couple of games, other candidates may accept jobs or choose to stay with their current programs (Harbaugh), so Bisaccia may rank atop Davis’ shortlist of coaches when the team’s season comes to an end. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “it’s at least possible” that Bisaccia retains the head-coaching position.
Mike Mayock’s hits and misses with the Las Vegas Raiders
With a disastrous 2020 draft class, Mayock seemed likely to lose his job at the end of the season. Only three of the seven players from that group remain on the roster. Among the three, guard John Simpson and wide receiver Bryan Edwards have significant roles. Cornerback Amik Robertson has logged three defensive snaps since Week 6.
Despite first-round whiffs with defensive end Clelin Ferrell, safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Damon Arnette and the decision to waive wideout Henry Ruggs III after his involvement in a fatal car accident, Mayock deserves credit for his Day 3 gems.
Defensive end Maxx Crosby, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and rookie slot cornerback Nate Hobbs have been key players in the Raiders’ four-game win streak.
Vegas has a promising rookie class as well.
Safety Tre’von Moehrig has put together solid performances, logging six pass breakups, an interception and allowing a 58.3% completion rate in coverage. Malcolm Koonce showed brief flashes with sacks in back-to-back games. Linebacker Divine Deablo has surpassed Cory Littleton on the depth chart.
The Las Vegas Raiders hit on multiple free-agent pickups, mostly players who had experience in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system, including Yannick Ngakoue, Casey Hayward Jr., Denzel Perryman, Darius Philon and Brandon Facyson, who leads the team in pass breakups (13). Solomon Thomas, who didn’t have previous ties to Bradley, has also exceeded expectations on a revamped defensive line.
Even with Mayock’s glaring misses that also fall on former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and former head coach Jon Gruden, Vegas heads into the postseason with a decent roster.
Two weeks ago, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler emptied his notebook and pumped the brakes on the notion that the Las Vegas Raiders will boot Mayock for a new general manager.
“There is at least some optimism in the building that Mayock could get a real chance at the gig without Jon Gruden, who had final say over personnel decisions. Mayock and team owner Mark Davis have maintained a good relationship, and save a few draft missteps, the roster is in decent shape,” Fowler noted. “The flip side is that Davis hasn’t made a firm decision or tipped off his plans, and some league folks are expecting a change. The situation remains fluid and neither option would shock. I’m just saying Mayock being let go is not a slam dunk.”
In the NFL, a winning football team breeds trust in the team’s decision-makers. Raiders fans may get the head coach-general manager pairing that few considered a month ago.
With all the turnover within the organization in recent years (and still front-office spots to fill), don’t be surprised if Davis chooses continuity over cleaning house after watching the Raiders overcome major challenges through the 2021 campaign. Bisaccia and Mayock could both make a better case to be retained if the Raiders improbable run into the playoffs goes past the first week.