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Column: Raiders have their trainer after the Bisaccia aces try

The Miami layoff has been a headache, given that Brian Flores has won eight of his last nine games and appeared to have the Dolphins moving firmly in the right direction. Not so much in Minnesota and Chicago, where coaches and general managers had long exhausted their welcome.

Black Monday offered the usual death toll across the NFL, where missing the playoffs means a pink slip might not be far behind.


The season is over for 18 teams and there’s no reason to waste time cleaning the house. No reason to dwell on the hunt for a new coach either, although the diversity talks – and hopefully some diversity-related hires – will slow the process down a bit.

Except in Las Vegas, of course. There, all Raiders owner Mark Davis needs to do is one little thing – ignore shiny objects like Jim Harbaugh and remove the acting word from Rich Bisaccia’s title.

Do it regardless of what happens in Cincinnati this weekend as the Raiders try to win their first playoff game in 19 years. Do it because it’s the right thing for the players who believe in him the most.

Heck, do it because Sunday night’s thriller against the Chargers to end the NFL regular season answered all the remaining questions about Bisaccia’s strong training sense.

The lifelong footballer who had never led a team at any level has earned the right to be a head coach at the highest level in football. After nearly two decades of coaching special teams in the NFL, he’s an overnight achievement that no one saw coming.

Think about it. When Bisaccia was first handed the reins of the team after Jon Gruden was sent to pack his bags, he struggled to figure out how to use the helmet outside.

Interim Las Vegas Raiders head coach Rich Bisaccia chats with quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, on Sunday, October 24, 2021, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo / Rick Scuteri)

Now he’s got the Raiders in the playoffs – and they look like a team that isn’t ready to go easily.

The blue-collar coach who spent 38 years in college and the pros waiting for his luck found him unexpectedly when Gruden was kicked out of town for his disturbing emails. In just 12 games, the 61-year-old has shaped the squad in his image, going 7-5 despite lingering unrest, including wide receiver Henry Ruggs III killing a woman while driving his car in the city ​​streets.

Gamers say they love him, and his unpretentious personality is one of the main reasons why. While Gruden was to be the center of attention for any team, Bisaccia came to work with the ego of a longtime assistant who believed his time at the top would never come.

His players play hard for him, the one every coach needs to be successful.

Every game. Every stocking.

“I think we’ve tried to develop a group of men who care about each other, know what to do and compete with relentless efforts,” Bisaccia said. “And they’re a tough team to beat. “

It was Sunday night in a prime-time game that ended the NFL regular season in style. The Raiders lost a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter only to win on a last-second kick in overtime that sold out the roaring Allegiant Stadium.

They would have advanced on a tie as well, but that is another story in itself. And there are plenty of stories to be told about a team that found a way to win their last four games to finish 10-7 and earn a berth against the Bengals in Cincinnati.


“Just to see how Coach Bisaccia has been leading us this year, our coaching staff staying together,” said quarterback Derek Carr. “I hope it would be a Disney movie someday and I would play Coach Bisaccia.”

These kinds of movies only happen if the Super Bowls are won, and no one has yet announced that the Raiders will be in Los Angeles in February. Merely winning a playoff game would be a building block, even though the Raiders are 6-point underdogs against the Bengals.

Still, Bisaccia did the job she was asked to do – and more. He’s been stable through a season of adversity, and his team are playing hard and playing together just when they need it most.

He treats his coordinators as equals, and they and the other assistants have also agreed, as have the players. Along the way, he also picked up a few things about what it takes to be the chef himself.

“I would like to think I got better,” Bisaccia said. “I would like to think I grew up in a positive way.”

He did so, although the trial was not quite over. The Raiders still have games – or a game – to play.

Still, the argument can be made that Bisaccia has already passed the audition.


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