It’s ironic that Allegiant Stadium has been nicknamed the “Death Star,” because so many in Raider Nation only deal in absolutes. For fans decked out in silver and black, many in this passionate fanbase struggle with shades of grey. You are either the best thing since sliced bread or absolute gutter trash and there is no in between.
During the 2021 season, the Las Vegas Raiders overcame a lot of things that had very little to do with football, and much credit is due to the team’s interim head coach, Rich Bisaccia, and quarterback, Derek Carr. Neither man will be a Las Vegas Raider when the 2023 season starts, and after the 2022 season underwhelmed, it’s easy to see why some have romanticized the contributions to, if not both men, the one-time special teams coordinator.
Here’s why Raider Nation should cherish Bisaccia’s contributions… without exaggerating his potential.
Rich Bisaccia’s Rose-Tinted Raiders Legacy
Rich Bisaccia does not have a philosophy on offense or defense. He came in, let Greg Olson run the offense, let Gus Bradley run the defense, and put himself in charge of the big decisions. How did he fare? Not well, really not well.
As a special teams guy, it’s understandable that Bisaccia is going to prefer wheeling out the punter or kicker… but according to the numbers, Bisaccia didn’t do a great job of determining when to do what. I’m not saying he should’ve gone for it every time, lord knows Brandon Staley is about to lose his job for doing exactly that, but there’s a time and place to be conservative and a time and place to be aggressive.
Not to mention, during that legendary week 18 showdown with the Chargers, Bisaccia had one of the worst displays of situational football that I’ve ever seen. Up six in the third quarter, Derek Carr targeted Bryan Edwards, but his pass was incomplete. Being that the pass was incomplete, the clock was already stopped. Bisaccia wanted more time to review the play so he called a timeout. Then, after calling the timeout, he attempted to challenge the play, even through the play was incomplete anyway. In a one-score game, with the season on the line, on a second down play, Bisaccia tried to burn two time outs for no reason.
This man had like two jobs, time management and fourth down decision making, and he was dreadful at both of them. And speaking of that, it’s not like the Raiders were just going to keep Bisaccia. They also would’ve kept Greg Olson and Gus Bradley. Olson will likely not be retained by the Los Angeles Rams and he’ll be joining Gus Bradley on the unemployment line this off-season. Bisaccia, Olson, and Bradley are not hot head coaching commodities this cycle, and there’s a reason for that. So the Raiders should’ve kept mediocre coordinators, just to keep a guy because the players like him as a human?
Forgive me, I don’t think many Patriots players send Bill Belichick Christmas cards.
I hear you now, “JOSH MCDANIELS BLEW 14 POIN-“ That’s great. This article isn’t about Josh McDaniels. I’ve never been an advocate of McDaniels as a head coach. I was vocal in my disapproval during the hire, and many of the things he’s done over the last season have made me scratch my head. We. Do. Not. Live. In. A. Computer. Things do not need to be binary. You can believe that Rich Bisaccia was not the right guy while maintaining that you’re not a fan of McDaniels at the same time. The difference between you and me is that your favorite head coach is always “the last one” and mine is always “the next one.”
Quality of Opponent
The Las Vegas Raiders won ten games last year, including four in a row to make the playoffs, and that will have you thinking they were a good team. This simply isn’t the case. The defense was dreadful, as usual, ranking somewhere between 14 and 32 in the statistical categories that matter, and the offense underwhelmed, with the passing game being mediocre and the run game among the league’s worst.
On their four game winning streak, they won by an average of 3 points. The shootout against Justin Herbert and the Chargers instantly comes to mind, but what about Carson Wentz and the Colts? Drew Lock’s last hurrah with the Broncos? Nick Mullens and the Browns? None of those quarterbacks were retained in the following off-season, and they all made room for Derek Carr to watch the end of the season from the bench.
Nail biters against back-up quarterbacks where the “vaunted” Raiders offense scored 18 points a game and the starting quarterback had twice as many turnovers (six) as touchdowns (three). A flashy primetime win over the notoriously underachieving Chargers be damned, the fact that the Raiders/Bengals game was as close says more about Cincinnati than it does Las Vegas.
The biggest argument for keeping Bisaccia is that he took the Raiders to the playoffs, and while that’s great on the surface, it withers away under further investigation. He went 7-5, including blowout losses to the Chiefs and Bengals, as well as humiliating losses against the dregs of the NFC East, the “Football Team” and Giants where the team just looked hapless.
Hey, speaking of those Chiefs.
The Walrus in the Room
Nobody likes to admit it, but not just the AFC West, but the entire American Football Conference, runs through Arrowhead. Andy Reid has built an offensive machine more devastating than any George Lucas planet-killer, and his Darth Vader has two of the five best passing seasons in NFL history, and anyone who hopes to raise the Lamar Hunt trophy needs to be able to beat Lamar Hunt’s team.
Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills came close last year, and finally pulled off a win against Patrick Mahomes and company this season. Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals have come away with wins over KC not once, not twice, but three times in the last year and a half. When you talk about teams that consistently hang with Kansas City, you are talking about the teams who are vying for a championship.
If the Las Vegas Raiders hope to be among those teams, they need to make sure they are coached up. That means being emotionally motivated and psychologically prepared. Coming out flat against Andy Reid’s dynamic offense, or missing obvious assignments on defense, will not win you games.
Rich Bisaccia is a good man. Not many people could’ve kept the Raiders locker room alive last season. But he’s not on Andy Reid’s level. That isn’t to say that many men are. Reid is arguably the best coach of the last quarter century, consistently producing championship caliber teams regardless of who his quarterback is, and creating some of the most inventive and dynamic offenses in NFL history.
In two games against Reid, Bisaccia’s Raiders were outscored 89-23.
For The Love of The Game
Rich Bisaccia is a good man, and there’s no question why his players love him. He’s a motivator and a guy’s guy, and without him, the 2021 Raiders surely would’ve fallen to pieces. But at the end of the day, being a very good interim head coach does not automatically make you ready for the gig full-time. And we see that, judging by the fact that nobody, not even the Houston Texans, hired him during the last coaching cycle, and it’s unlikely that they’ll do it again.
I don’t want this to sound like a hit piece on Bisaccia, because I really do appreciate what he did for the Raiders. But at the end of the day, he was a crutch.
Walking with a broken ankle is hard. It’s easier when you have a crutch. When the ankle heals? you don’t keep using the crutch. Whether or not the Raiders reaggravated that ankle or bought shoes that didn’t fit is irrelevant. You cannot run with crutches.
Don’t blame me, I wanted Harbaugh.