The Las Vegas Raiders blew things up after the NFL trade deadline with the firings of both head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler.
Las Vegas ultimately promoted linebackers coach and former New York Giants star linebacker Antonio Pierce to interim head coach, and individuals who had Pierce as a player explained why he may find success beginning with Sundays home game against none other than the Giants.
“He’s one of those guys that people follow and they cling to, because he’s got some swagger to him,” former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said about Pierce during a conversation with Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post. “The players that he’s coached [with the Raiders] will definitely be affected by him getting the job. He’s the kind of guy that the players know has paid the price and he’ll have a leg up in terms of respect from the players because of that.”
Pierce featured for Washington from 2001 through the 2004 campaign before he spent his next five seasons with the Giants. Playing under Coughlin and then-New York defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Pierce earned a championship ring as part of the Giants team that defeated the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
“When I was coaching him, he watched film differently than the other guys in that he always saw the big picture,” Spagnuolo, the current defensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, said about Pierce. “He also has a tremendous way with the players. He was a guy who could go into every individual meeting room and be a part of the room just naturally and guys gravitated to him. That’s a leadership quality that you’re just born with.”
Pierces first big move in charge of the Las Vegas squad was to bench veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in favor of rookie Aidan O’Connell for Sundays matchup versus the Giants. As of Friday afternoon, oddschecker listed the 3-5 Raiders as 1.5-point favorites against 2-6 New York.
“He didn’t have size, he didn’t have speed, but what kept him at the level that he played at was the fact that he was so smart that he would often be a play ahead of the offensive team,” Coughlin added about Pierce. “He had charisma, he had leadership qualities. The game means a lot to him.”
Pierces passion could burn his old team in a big way considering the Giants need to begin a winning streak this weekend to save whatevers left of a disappointing season.