The 2023 NFL season officially has it’s first head coaching casualty. Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has fired head coach Josh McDaniels, along with general manager Dave Ziegler. The two former New England Patriots employees now find themselves unemployed less than two seasons after being hired by Davis.
Expectations Were High
In 2021, Las Vegas had parted ways with their last full-time head coach, Jon Gruden. Just five games into the season, Gruden resigned after email scandal surfaced. Assistant Rich Bisaccia was named interim coach in 2021, taking over for Gruden. Despite the distractions (Gruden’s departure, WR Henry Ruggs released after a fatal DUI accident) Bisaccia led Las Vegas to the 2021 NFL Playoffs with a 10-7 record. But despite guiding the team to the postseason, Rich Bisaccia was passed over for the full-time position. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was Davis’ choice to guide the team in 2022.
Joining McDaniels in Las Vegas would be Dave Ziegler, the Patriots director of player personnel.
Generally speaking, major change takes place for NFL franchises when they are struggling. In this case, McDaniels and Ziegler were joining a team that had just made the playoffs. In addition, the Raiders snagged the biggest offseason prize in free agency, signing All-Pro wide receiver away from the Green Bay Packers.
So, a team that had just won 10 games had changed coaches and added a superstar to their offense. The assumption in Las Vegas seemed to be that those 10 wins were now the floor, not the ceiling. That assumption would provide incorrect.
2022: A Step Backward
Ziegler and McDaniels brought plenty of coaches and players with them from New England, but were unable to match the success.
Right out of the gate in 2022 the Las Vegas struggled, winning only two of their first nine games. But then a little excitement began to brew as they won four-of-five games in dramatic fashion. Two games were won in overtime, and another was the game-winning touchdown by Chandler Jones against the Patriots as time expired.
— NFL (@NFL) December 19, 2022
It was too little, too late for Las Vegas though. After losing the following week in Pittsburgh to fall to 6-9, their hopes of returning to the playoffs were through. Josh McDaniels decided he wanted to see what the Raiders had behind QB Derek Carr and benched him for the final two games. Carr had been the longtime leader of the Raiders. He was also the college quarterback for Devante Adams at Fresno State and a primary reason why Adams had come to Las Vegas in the first place. Former Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham started the losing two games for the Raiders, losing both.
The Raiders received outstanding individual performances from All-Pros Josh Jacobs (RB) and Devante Adams (WR) but they did not perform well as a team.
2023: Downward Spiral Continues
Following the 2022 season, more changes were made. Derek Carr was out and another former Patriots quarterback was in: Jimmy Garoppolo. With the offseason signings. of Garoppolo and wide receiver Jakobi Meyers among others, the list of former Patriots players on the Raiders had become substantial.
Away from the field there were problems before the season ever began. Chandler Jones had bizarre behavior result in an arrest and subsequent release by the team. Josh Jacobs, coming off of his All-Pro season, had held out in training camp in the hopes of signing a new contract. He eventually returned to the team in late August, but without a new deal.
Another slow start to the season placed Josh McDaniels squarely on the hot seat. Las Vegas won their opener by a point over the Broncos, then lost three straight.
But it was just two weeks ago that Las Vegas defeated New England 21-17. It was their second win in a row and got the Raiders back to .500 at 3-3. But Garoppolo was injured in the win over the Patriots. Yet another former Patriots QB, Brian Hoyer, would get the start the following week and he struggled badly in the loss, before being replaced. Garoppolo was back this past week on Monday Night Football, but he struggled as well. Devante Adams was visibly frustrated throughout the game as he continued to be open without getting the ball. Things in Las Vegas had gone from bad to dysfunctional.
With another season slipping away, Mark Davis pulled the plug.
What’s Next for Josh McDaniels?
McDaniels was fired less than two years into a six-year deal, so he doesn’t need to make any hasty decisions. The Raiders are believed to owe him an additional $40 million. So if McDaniels wants to take time off, he’ll be fine financially.
This was Josh McDaniels second stint as an NFL head coach. In both cases he was fired before his second season ended. His run with the Denver Broncos (2009-2010) lasted 28 games (11-17, .393 winning %). His Las Vegas Raiders tenure ends after only 25 games (9-16, .360 winning %). After two failed attempts at being a head coach in the NFL, Josh McDaniels may have gotten his last opportunity. He is now 20-33 overall, having won just 37.7% of games as a head coach.
No question McDaniels still has a future coaching in the NFL. He was a successful offensive coordinator for a long time. Only 47-years old, it is unlikely McDaniels wants to retire. And since it is unusual (though not unheard of) for coaches to step away for a prolonged period before making a return, he could land with a new franchise in 2024. Already there is speculation about an imminent return to Foxboro. However, with the Patriots situation it seems unlikely that Bill Belichick would risk upsetting OC Bill O’Brien with such a move. In the offseason that could be revisited, but not now. Such a move would not seem to be of much benefit for McDaniels either.
Both Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler are longtime NFL employees that will work for somebody before long. They are alumnae of John Carroll University, a school that has produced many of NFL employees. This includes Nick Caserio, the ex-Patriots executive, now GM of the Texans. Perhaps they will land in Houston, where McDaniels can work with quarterback C.J. Stroud.
But don’t expect to see Josh McDaniels back in Foxboro anytime soon, and don’t bet on him to be named head coach of any NFL team again. Sometimes it only takes two strikes to be out.