Will Raiders stick with Antonio Pierce as head coach or pursue a big name?


Antonio Pierce has one more chance to, as he has said, improve his résumé on the grass.

Like his 4-4 record since replacing Josh McDaniels on Halloween night, Pierce’s résumé is a mixed bag.

He has brought energy to what had been a lackluster locker room, and the Raiders defense has been better this season. On the flip side, Pierce has struggled with in-game decisions — often punting on the opposing team’s side of the field and misusing timeouts.

None of that might matter if owner Mark Davis already has his mind made up to again chase the shiny object and make a play for a coach such as Jim Harbaugh, who has led Michigan to Monday’s national championship game against Washington.

But if Davis is still considering removing the interim tag from Pierce’s job title, then Sunday’s season finale against the Denver Broncos could take on extra meaning for the coach and his staff.

“At the end of day, everything will be looked at by wins and losses, and I think that’s fair and that’s what this business is about,” Pierce said. “But I do also think it’s about what do you build in the foundation? And I think for the most part in these eight or nine weeks, it’s been a solid foundation that we’ve built as a team and as an organization that we can look on and say, ‘OK, those are things that went well and there’s some other things that we can do better.'”

Pierce’s future isn’t the only question for the Raiders as the season comes to an end.

Las Vegas will have to decide what to do at quarterback. Aidan O’Connell has had promising moments but hasn’t proven he will be more than a mid-level quarterback. That’s especially bad timing for him given that next year’s draft is considered the strongest at that position in many years.

There are positions throughout the lineup that Raiders management will have to evaluate, and with the team mathematically eliminated from the postseason, players who haven’t seen much action could get a closer look on Sunday.

So while it would appear the Raiders don’t have much to play for, there are still questions about this team that need to be answered.

“Unless you plan on retiring and not playing in the NFL or coaching in the NFL, this is still on your résumé,” Pierce said. “You always look at the last four, five or six games of the season of how a team plays, how they’re coached. So I think for us it’s very important. It’s still part of the process and evaluation.”

Raiders upset Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas Day

In two of the past three games, WR Davante Adams has 21 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns. This has been a down year by Adams’ standards, but he still managed to eclipse 1,000 yards for the fifth time in six seasons and is two receptions from hitting the 100 mark for the fifth time over the same span.

The Raiders sometimes look like a playoff team and will put together back-to-back promising performances. But they don’t build on such play, with the 23-20 loss against the Colts on Sunday a prime example. Las Vegas had 26 first downs to 16 for the Colts and outgained them 370 yards to 349, but the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own way with untimely penalties.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham could be a candidate for head coaching jobs this offseason. Las Vegas allows 19.8 yards per game, which is eighth in the NFL and 18 places higher than last season when the Raiders gave up a 24.6 average.

Cornerback Jack Jones has been a big part of the defense’s late-season improvement, but he made two critical mistakes against the Colts. The most egregious was an offside on a missed 50-yard field goal by the Colts that would’ve kept the Raiders within a touchdown. A second attempt from 45 yards gave Indianapolis a two-possession lead with 3:15 left. Jones also was called for pass interference on a deep throw on third down.

The Raiders conclude the season by hosting the Broncos on Sunday.

Reporting by The Associated Press. 



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