A new era is a about to dawn for the Las Vegas Raiders, and there are a handful of potential Josh McDaniels replacements out there.
In the aftermath of firing general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels, owner Mark Davis is about to plot a new course for one of the league's more underachieving franchises of the past half decade.
"After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave," owner Mark Davis said in a statement in the early morning hours of Nov. 1. "I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best."
In less than two full seasons, McDaniels departs with a 9-16 record, as Ziegler leaves behind a roster with significant holes on both sides of the ball. While linebackers coach Antonio Pierce ascends to the head coaching role, it remains to be seen whether he will wind up keeping the job beyond the conclusion of the 2023 season.
Several league sources suggest that Davis might opt to hire a general manager before hiring a head coach, after giving both Jon Gruden and McDaniels significant latitude to hire a preferred general manager.
Regardless of whether Davis makes the head coaching hire himself, or allows a new general manager to rebuild the franchise in their image, here's a look at six potential head coaching candidates to replace McDaniels on a permanent basis:
1) Ben Johnson, Offensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions
There might not be a more rising star in the coaching community than Ben Johnson, especially amid the Lions' transformation into an offensive juggernaut the past two seasons. Throw in the variable that the Raiders could wind up crashing the Caleb Williams/Drake Maye sweepstakes, and there might not be a coaching candidate better suited to develop a young quarterback, than Johnson. Under the 37-year-old's tutelage, only the Miami Dolphins have averaged more yards per game than the Lions' 390.6 total yards per game, and Detroit is averaging 25 points per game, so far this season. Last season, Johnson's Lions averaged 380 yards and 26.6 points per game, as Detroit fell just short of a return to the NFL playoffs. Johnson will be in high-demand this hiring cycle, and the Raiders may need to act aggressively to land him.
2) Deion Sanders, Head Coach, Colorado Buffaloes
Perhaps the ultimate sleeper, the Raiders might make the most sense, should Deion Sanders opt to ride a wave of unprecedented excitement and positive publicity from his season as head coach at the University of Colorado. Few markets demand the entertainment factor, that Las Vegas does. Sanders would infuse an aura of excitement to a woebegone franchise, is a coach cut from the same cloth as the late Al Davis' 'Just win, baby' persona, and would help stem the tide from Allegiant Stadium feeling like an away game for the Raiders each week. Sanders leading the charge alongside an experienced staff of coordinators could also make Vegas even more of a free agent destination, to boot.
3) Lou Anarumo, Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Few coordinators across the league have built and overseen a defense as dominant as Lou Anarumo's Cincinnati Bengals have been over the past three seasons. The fact that Anarumo was passed over for a head coaching job last offseason was one of the biggest surprises of the hiring cycle. Cincinnati's defense has been one of the league's most ascending units the past two years, and even amid Joe Burrow and the offense struggling to start the 2023 campaign, begins the second half of this season in the middle of the pack, while holding opponents to 20.6 points per game. If Davis and the Raiders opt to swing the pendulum to a defensive-minded head coach, Anarumo might be the first interview.
4) Press Taylor, Offensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars
After plucking from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, whose branches have left a trail of colossal disappointment in their wake across the league outside of Patriots Place, perhaps Mark Davis takes a hatchet to the more successful Doug Pederson coaching tree. Taylor has been Pederson's right-hand man since their time together in Philadelphia, and has helped oversee Trevor Lawrence's rapid ascension into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. Pederson handing off play-calling duties to Taylor this season could raise his profile even higher, ahead of this winter's hiring cycle.
5) Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
Raheem Morris is one of the more highly-respected defensive coordinators in the NFL, and very nearly stole the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job out from underneath Shane Steichen last year. Landing in Los Angeles has been an ultimate redemption story, after a disappointing tenure as the Buccaneers' head coach. Players seem to love playing for Morris, and the fact that he has had the opportunity to learn underneath Sean McVay could make him even more attractive to run an organization of his own.
6) Steve Wilks, Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Even before taking over for DeMeco Ryans as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator this season, Steve Wilks had done enough to put his disappointing 3-13 tenure as the Arizona Cardinals head coach behind him. Wlks took over for Matt Rhule, as the Panthers' interim head coach, and probably should have gotten that job permanently, after finishing the season 6-6 while rallying the locker room around him. Wilks' 49ers are holding opponents to a mere 17.5 points per game. Wilks might finally get his second-chance as a head coach, with the Raiders.
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