Give interim head coach Rich Bisaccia some credit. His Las Vegas Raiders never gave up.
They ended up losing on Super Wild Card Weekend to the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-19, but they never gave up.
It was a fitting end to Bisaccia’s time as interim head coach for the Raiders, and his team’s fight not just in the playoffs but for much of the second half of the season is why he deserves the head coaching job, sans the interim title, in 2022 and beyond.
The Las Vegas Raiders fought for Rich Bisaccia against the Cincinnati Bengals
It was evident from the very beginning at Paul Brown Stadium that the Bengals were probably the more explosive and talented team, but that never stopped the Raiders from fighting until the very end.
Vegas was down 20-6 with 1:51 to go in the second quarter, and it looked like Cincinnati had stolen all the momentum. Derek Carr proceeded to lead the Raiders on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to score a touchdown before halftime to bring the score to within eight.
The Raiders found themselves significantly down again midway through the fourth quarter, on the losing end of a 26-16 score with 6:46 to go. Las Vegas proceeded to kick a field goal to bring the game to within seven, and then forced a three-and-out on the very next drive. With 1:51 to go in the game, Carr led the Raiders to the Cincinnati nine before throwing a desperation interception on fourth down to end the game.
It wasn’t the way the Raiders wanted it to go, but they fought until the bitter end.
“It was a group of men that really learned how to care for one another, really learned how to compete with relentless effort to the bitter end, day in and day out and proved not only as players, but as men. We just ran out of time today,” Bisaccia said after the game, according to ESPN.
Bisaccia held the Raiders together through an extremely tough season
Bisaccia started the season as special teams coordinator for Las Vegas under head coach Jon Gruden. When an email scandal forced Gruden to resign in early October, he stepped up and took over as interim head coach, seemingly just there to keep the lights on until the Raiders could find Gruden’s replacement.
Bisaccia led the Raiders to two straight wins in his first two games ever as a head coach at any level. They then suffered a three-game losing streak and lost five of six games in the middle of the season. It was a terrible stretch highlighted by just one win, but it was a big one. On Thanksgiving Day, Bisaccia led the Raiders to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, and they came away with a 36-33 overtime victory.
The Gruden drama had to have been a distraction off the field and in the locker room, but the Raiders also had to deal with a real tragedy regarding their teammate, Henry Ruggs III. The team released Ruggs in early November due to his involvement in a deadly vehicle crash.
Through all the distractions and the ups and downs, Bisaccia was able to right the ship and lead the Raiders to four straight wins to end the season. They finished with a 10-7 record. Under Bisaccia’s leadership, they were 7-5.
Bisaccia has the backing of Derek Carr and Maxx Crosby heading into the offseason
Bisaccia’s tenure as interim head coach ended with Vegas’ loss to the Bengals in the playoffs, and now despite all of his hard work, he finds himself as a candidate for the job rather than the one holding the big headset.
Where the Raiders choose to go from here is anybody’s guess. Owner Mark Davis hasn’t tipped his hand one way or the other. For what it’s worth, though, his franchise quarterback did offer a full-fledged endorsement of Bisaccia, and this was after the loss to the Bengals.
“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said, per ESPN “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make, I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”
Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby also threw his weight behind Bisaccia after the loss.
“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be. I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s — he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle,” Crosby said.
Those are huge endorsements from two major pieces of the puzzle for the Raiders, and for what it’s worth, they’re right. Bisaccia should be the Raiders head coach next season.
As much as coaching in today’s NFL is about schemes and game plans, ultimately, a great coach finds a way to get their team to stick together and play through the ups and downs of a long season. They find a way to motivate their team every week, no matter the circumstances. They keep their team’s head in the game even when the going gets tough.
We saw Bisaccia do that for the Raiders during the season. He helped guide the team through real-life adversity, and yet they still showed up to compete every week. Against the Bengals, we saw the whole season for Vegas encapsulated in one game. The Raiders were down and out twice, but both times they fought back and made Cincinnati fight for the win. They forced the Bengals to sweat it out until the very last play of the game.
That’s a sign of good coaching. That, and the way Bisaccia’s players talk about him, even after a loss.
“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week,” Crosby said of his head coach. “I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”