Raiders HC Antonio Pierce named dark horse candidate for prestigious award

The Las Vegas Raiders head coach could win some serious accolades with a strong season.
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce.
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce. / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Antonio Pierce did a great job as the Las Vegas Raiders' interim head coach, but having the full-time job is very different. Last season, Pierce didn't have to worry much about staffing or personnel decisions. His focus was just figuring out how to motivate his players to play hard despite the difficult circumstances of last season.

It won't take long to know whether or not Pierce is in over his head. Early signs are suggesting that he's going to be a great fit but things change once games are played. The Raiders have had two winning seasons since 2002. If Pierce leads them to their third, he'll have to be in the Coach of the Year mix. In fact, Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report believes that he's a dark horse candidate to win the award this season.

"Pierce lit a fire under the Raiders in an interim capacity in 2023, and the roster is good enough to surpass expectations in 2024," Gagnon wrote. "It's surprising to see him listed below 11 head coaches in terms of COY odds."

Four of the last seven Coach of the Year winners were first-year head coaches. While Pierce isn't technically a first-year head coach, he's essentially in the role for the first time in 2024.

Pierce's energy and charisma will make him a big star around the entire NFL if the Raiders are good. He played recently enough for many people to remember his playing career. He really has a golden opportunity to become one of the most recognized head coaches in the league.

However, the only way to really achieve that is to win a lot of games. Pierce was 5-4 as an interim head coach last season, which is really good considering the situation. The magic number for him to be in the Coach of the Year running is likely 11 wins. If he can get the Raiders to the playoffs with 11 wins, he'd have to be one of the front runners to win.

Obviously, there's so much that can happen during the regular season that could make the race for the award interesting but it's going to be hard to find a better story than Pierce if the Raiders are a playoff team.