The Raiders are close to finalizing a deal with Josh McDaniels to be their next head coach. The deal is unofficial, but an official announcement seems imminent.
McDaniels, the New England Patriots’ longtime offensive coordinator, met with Raiders owner Mark Davis and key decision-makers Friday and Saturday. By the end of the weekend, both sides were ready to move forward together.
Also, on Sunday morning, the team announced that it had hired Patriots professional chief of staff Dave Ziegler as general manager. McDaniels and Ziegler have a relationship that dates back to their days as teammates on the John Carroll University football team. They also worked together in Denver and New England.
We hired Dave Ziegler as General Manager. pic.twitter.com/CNmEo7oPa3
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) January 30, 2022
The pairing of Ziegler and McDaniels fits the Raiders’ desires to create an organizational football power tandem between a head coach and general manager with a prior working relationship together. The goal is an already established chemistry and synergy that allows the new duo to make a smooth transition together to Las Vegas and embark on the key decisions they face.
In doing so, the hope is that they alleviate some of the problems the Raiders faced at the top of the draft and in free agency under head coach Jon Gruden and general Mike Mayock in their three years together.
It was McDaniels who gave Ziegler his first NFL job in 2009 by bringing him into the Broncos personnel department. Ziegler spent three seasons in Denver before reuniting with McDaniels in New England, where he has worked the past nine seasons.
By the end of his tenure with the Patriots, Ziegler had risen to the “de facto” general manager position as Bill Belichick’s right-hand man. In fact, when Ziegler was one of the favorites to land the Broncos general manager job last year. Belichick convinced him to stay in New England with the reward of having more voice and responsibility. Ziegler has been credited with overseeing the Patriots’ splashy 2021 draft and free agency streak, both of which helped push them back to the playoffs this year.
The sparkling job caught the attention of the Raiders, who were considering a replacement for Mayock, who was left vulnerable after Gruden resigned last October and after a number of his draft picks didn’t work out.
But so did Ziegler’s relationship with McDaniels, who became their favorite target as their head coaching search began to unfold. McDaniels, 45, has spent 18 of the past 21 years with the Patriots, the other three as Broncos head coach and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator.
McDaniels served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for most of his time in New England, and his time overseeing one of the NFL’s most diverse and creative offenses left the Raiders in love with him. And they’re counting on him to push quarterback Derek Carr and their offense to new heights.
Among the areas they hope they can address soon are the red zone offense, scoring and third offense.
Over the past three seasons, the Raiders have ranked 29th, 23rd and 22nd in red zone touchdown percentage. Aside from 2020, when the Patriots replaced Brady with Cam Newton and finished 24th in that category, New England has always been one of the most proficient teams at scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
That includes seventh place in the NFL last year (63.08%) with rookie quarterback Mac Jones at the helm and finishing in the top 12 of 2016-19.
Last year, the Raiders ranked 22nd in third down conversion rate at 37.95%. The Patriots finished sixth at 43.95.
McDaniels comes with red flags after failing in his first go-around with the Denver Broncos from 2009-2010. During his stint with the Broncos, he went 11-17 and was fired 12 games in his second season. He also agreed to become the coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, only to step down at the 11th hour.
The Raiders, however, believe McDaniels grew from his experience in Denver and was apparently satisfied with his explanation of the reasons that led to his abrupt decision to back down from his commitment to the Colts.
His offensive acumen is highly respected in the NFL. But it will be the whole package – building a winning roster, overseeing a coaching staff and leading a 53-player roster to new heights – on which McDaniels will ultimately be judged.