Understanding the rhyme and reason behind the hiring, firing and stand pat order of NFL head coaches must take a special gift. Or some other-worldly assessment tool. And the results typically fuel more head-scratching down the road.
Look at what happened to David Culley. Culley was fired on Thursday as Houston Texans coach, dismissed after one season. Never mind the dysfunction of the Deshaun Watson drama. Culley was one-and-done.
So, why does Lions coach Dan Campbell still have a job? Why wasn’t Campbell, with no Watson cloud overhead, one-and-done, too? Culley won four games this season, Campbell (who released offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn this week) won three games in his first season at the helm for Detroit.
Likewise, Matt Rhule is still on the job with the Carolina Panthers, despite pulling up the rear in the NFC South (5-12) and losing more than twice the amount of games (23) as he won (10) in his two NFL seasons. Brian Flores, though, is out after nearly rallying the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs with an 8-1 roll that followed a 1-7 start during the first half of the season. Go figure.
This brings us to Rich Bisaccia. The man has surely earned the legitimate chance to have the “interim” tag removed from his title and become the next coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Since Bisaccia took over for the disgraced Jon Gruden in October, when the racist and misogynistic emails were exposed, the interim coach merely guided the franchise to its first playoff berth since 2016.
Talk about acing an audition.
Bisaccia, 61, a long-time special teams coach, has never been a head coach on any level. But he’ll be on the sideline in Cincinnati on Saturday when the Raiders (10-7) try to win a fifth consecutive game.
The Raiders sideline figures to be much quieter than when Gruden roamed them, which says something about the calmness that Bisaccia operates with. He is well respected by the Raiders players, like coaching peers around the league, who vouch for the impact of his demeanor.
Turns out that has been perfect for a team that has had to overcome much more than Gruden’s drama. It has been such a mess for the Raiders.
Henry Ruggs, the star receiver, allegedly killed a 23-year-old woman, Tina Tintor, and her dog, during a fiery, DUI-influenced crash at 3:39 a.m. in early November. A few days later, cornerback Damon Arnette (like Ruggs a recent first-round pick) was released after he was seen on video brandishing a weapon and making death threats.
Such real-life issues are the “distractions” that can ruin a team’s season, but Bisaccia, the first coach since 1961 to lead a team to the playoffs after taking over during midseason, set the right tone for steadying the ship. That allowed an offense sparked by crafty quarterback Derek Carr’s best season and a defense fortified by an energetic front seven to rally from a November-December tailspin that saw them drop five of six games. It helped that one of Bisaccia’s special teamers, Daniel Carlson, has been straight money all season with his clutch field goal kicks.
Regardless of what happens on Saturday the owner of the Raiders, Mark Davis, needs to recognize that his next search for a head coach has been in full swing for weeks.
Perhaps Bisaccia will pull off a Bruce Arians-like ascent. Arians, the Bucs coach, toiled as a respected NFL assistant for many years until tapped as the Colts interim coach in 2012 while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia. After winning NFL Coach of the Year honors as an interim, Arians parlayed that into the Cardinals head coaching job, followed by his current stint in Tampa.
It’s unclear how determined Bisaccia will be in pursuing head coaching jobs with the Raiders or elsewhere. No doubt, he should be determined. Coaches sometimes spend a lifetime in the industry and never get the opportunity to prove whether they can successfully handle the head coaching role. Well, Bisaccia has proven worthy. And now it’s on his resume, too.
Davis didn’t respond to messages this week from USA TODAY Sports and has indicated that he won’t comment on his coaching situation until the season is completed.
Still, reports maintain that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is on Davis’ radar. The chance to possibly lure Harbaugh would be so tempting. Yet Davis should also recall what happened when he went after Gruden. Not only did Davis’ reputation take a hit for his apparent liberties in “complying” with the Rooney Rule, but it took four years to build a playoff team after Gruden and GM Mike Mayock embarked on a massive rebuilding makeover.
There’s something to be said for the Raiders maintaining the continuity.
Of course, with an opening, Davis needs to comply again with the Rooney Rule and open up the search process to interview at least two minority candidates. Being thorough and deliberate in the process, including candidates of all hues, should still be the aim for Davis.
Based on recent results, though, the Raiders should have a frontrunner who is already in the house.