Antonio Pierce will be an inspirational story to every interim head coach for the foreseeable future.
The Las Vegas Raiders have officially named him the full-time head coach, the team announced on social media Friday.
If you get a chance to coach an NFL team for part of a season, you have a shot to impress, and Pierce certainly did. The Raiders responded to him, and a strong half-season as interim coach has led Pierce to get the job on a permanent basis.
Pierce went 5-4 as interim coach this season and had fans chanting for team owner Mark Davis to hire him. Raiders players threw their support behind him, too, notably Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby, and Raiders legends came back to stump for him. Pierce energized the franchise and seemed to change the culture around the organization.
There's risk in hiring him, but in the end, Davis couldn't ignore all the support for Pierce to be the full-time coach.
Antonio Pierce earns the job
The last time the Raiders were in a similar situation, Rich Bisaccia led the team to the playoffs at the end of the 2021 season as an interim coach. Davis ignored that run and hired Josh McDaniels, who had a horrendous run as Raiders head coach.
When McDaniels was fired, Pierce got a shot to lead. He had been a head coach, but that was at the high school level for Long Beach Poly. After that, Pierce spent four years at Arizona State on the Sun Devils' defensive staff. He had just one full season as a linebackers coach in the NFL before this past season. That's not the typical résumé of an NFL coach.
But Pierce did have the respect of his players. He spent nine seasons as a linebacker with the New York Giants and Washington Commanders, winning a Super Bowl with the Giants. His approach resonated with the Raiders players, who by the end of the season were asking for Pierce to be hired full-time.
"It's obviously who I wanted, and he's my vote," Adams told reporters before the team's regular-season finale. "I've been vocal about that, and that's basically how the whole locker room feels, and with good reason. He's come in and done a great job.
"He's continued to win us over. It's not just the comfortable thing, I think having AP here would be good for this organization. He embodies what it means to be a Raider. That mentality, that swag, all the things that he endorses are the things that I believe in. ... Definitely [I'm] rooting for him."
Raiders take a shot on Pierce
The Raiders looked much better late in the season, though that might say as much or more about McDaniels than it does Pierce. Still, Pierce did a commendable job with a roster that has plenty of holes, including quarterback.
In a survey of six coaches and front-office executives, Yahoo Sports' Jori Epstein and Charles Robinson found that the group rated the Raiders' job opening as fifth-best among the league's seven vacancies entering Friday.
“You don't have a quarterback. You're not really picking one where you want to," one polled coach said. "There's not a lot of talent on the team — specifically like the guys on offense, Davante and Josh Jacobs, I don't know if you really want those guys back. Defensively, you got Maxx. But after that, there's not a ton there either.”
In the final four games of the season, the Raiders got wins over every one of their division rivals, beating the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. The win over the Chiefs on Christmas was just the Raiders' second win at Arrowhead Stadium since 2012.
Las Vegas still has an unsettled quarterback situation and some other issues to fix. But they have their coach. Plenty of Raiders players and fans will be happy with the decision.