Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce just gets it.
I suppose that shouldn't be a big surprise given the fact that Pierce spent 9 years in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl once and winning a Super Bowl with the 2007 New York Giants. But even still, given how new Pierce is to coaching the NFL — he was only hired by the Raiders a year and a half ago, with just one college stop at Arizona State before then — it's pretty remarkable to watch him push all the right buttons and say all the right things. Even after a loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Pierce took to the podium on Monday and maintained his status as a unifier in the Las Vegas locker room, diffusing what could've been a very unenviable situation for his rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell to find himself in.
“It's a team effort. It’s a team disappointment as well. It’s not on Aidan. We didn’t lose the game because of Aidan, let’s get that straight,” Pierce said authoritatively on Monday, per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk. He continued to offers words of support and encouragement for Aidan O'Connell, who three three interceptions in the 20-13 loss.
“Look around the National Football League — a lot of young quarterbacks are playing. A lot of guys are struggling with young quarterbacks. Some guys are doing really well. And for two games we did well. And we had one half that didn’t go the Raiders’ way. And, again, as we talk about it, our leaders up front from Kolton Miller to ‘Dre [Andre James], Josh Jacobs, to ‘Tae [Davante Adams], they’ve got to put their arm around the young guy. Listen, we’ve all had rough days like that at the office, and not to point fingers at anybody, you can’t do that. It’s a team effort when we win and a team effort when we lose.”
It's easy for me to sit here, thousands of miles away from Vegas, and say “Hey, look at the job Antonio Pierce is doing!” and include these quotes where he's saying everything right and hype the guy up. It's much more difficult to be inside of it, deal with the pressure, know that this opportunity to be interim head coach could lead to something long-term, and still handle everything with the grace that Antonio Pierce has.
I'm rooting for Antonio Pierce, and if Mark Davis is foolish enough to let another interim coach walk after picking up the pieces in a disastrous season, it'll be another team's gain.