Graney: Fixing the offense should be Antonio Pierce’s No. 1 priority

The Raiders are running it back with Antonio Pierce as coach, and that’s a good thing.

Players are obviously happy. Their wish has been granted.

Now, the pressure is really on.

For everyone.

Owner Mark Davis obviously listened to and respected what his team felt, in the end removing the interim tag from Pierce’s title. And so a man who in nine games changed the entire culture and vibe of a locker room now gets his opportunity to dictate things on a full-time basis. On his own terms.

Keeping it all together and not making sweeping changes as an interim coach who went 5-4 is one thing. But that’s all changed now. Pierce has some serious decisions to make.

Fix the offense

His choice of coordinators will be incredibly significant. Patrick Graham’s defense was among the NFL’s most productive to finish the season, and you would think Pierce would want to stay the course on that side of the ball.

The key will be if Graham does.

He was passed over as a coordinator for the interim job with the Raiders and has interviewed for some head coaching positions during this cycle. Maybe he’s all-in with Pierce as the choice and will return. But maybe he’ll have a decision to make. The Raiders, remember, can block any lateral move Graham might consider.

The real key here is on offense. The Raiders were bad, ranking 27th in total offense, 23rd in scoring and passing, and 30th in rushing.

Pierce needs an innovative mind to run the offense. He needs to do what Dan Campbell did in Detroit and find his own Ben Johnson. He needs to discover the person who can fix what most ails this team, which is an inability to consistently move the ball.

A big part in all of this is who will be the team’s quarterback in 2024. There needs to be some serious competition for Aidan O’Connell, if not a total replacement. Be it via a trade or through the draft, the Raiders can’t remain status quo at the position. Pierce must know this.

It will be the most important of decisions for him and whoever emerges as the full-time general manager. But we now know who’s in charge on the sidelines.

Pressure is on

Pierce had the support of players from the beginning, stars such as Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams making clear their preference. It was a total buy-in from those in helmets and shoulder pads. They got their man. Their wish has been granted.

“I’ll go back to my statement a few weeks ago — my resume is on the grass,” Pierce said shortly after the season concluded. “I mean, I’m being evaluated each and every day. And they know what it looks like. They know what it sounds like, looks like, if it’s real, if it’s fake, if it’s just a momentary deal. To have their blessings and backing is — obviously, that’s humbling.”

He was then asked if he deserved the job.

“I will never use the word deserve,” Pierce said. “Hopefully, I’ve earned it.”

Turns out, he did. Now the pressure is on.

For everyone. But especially Antonio Pierce.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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