First-year general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders Dace Ziegler hasn’t spoken to the media in quite some time, but on Wednesday, with the team in Sarasota, Fla., between games in New Orleans and Jacksonville, he addressed the condition of the team.
At 2-5, the current atmosphere in the team is obviously not that great. Nevertheless, Ziegler remains hopeful. While acknowledging that the team’s fanbase should be frustrated by the disappointing start, Ziegler praised head coach Josh McDaniels and rallied behind some players who had been battling for points, including quarterback Derek Carr and pass-rusher Chandler Jones, whom Zeigler, to whom he awarded both contracts this season.
Ziegler made it clear that it was only seven games and the team would not deviate from its long-term plan.
“We are 2-5. As a fan of the team, your expectations are high every year. As you start the year, you want your team to get off to a fast start. You want your team to compete in the playoffs. You want your team to win the Super Bowl. And so the frustration of the fanbase is totally justified, and I can appreciate their passion,” Ziegler said Wednesday. “And for me and for Josh [McDaniels] and for the organization there is nothing more passionate than winning football games and seeing this fanbase get what it deserves, which is a consistent winner. And so the frustration is justified. I would say we are seven games in a new regime, new organization, new way of doing things. And for us it hasn’t happened as quickly as we would have liked. But we don’t waver in our approach and we will stick to our plan and improve it over time. And again we are confident that the results will come.”
On the surface, some odd coaching decisions by McDaniels appear to have been one of the reasons for the Raiders’ troubles. He took over a 10-7 team going into the playoffs and added firepower this offseason to create real goals for the postseason. However, McDaniels, who coached the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, has seen his career record as head coach drop to a total of 13-22.
Still, Ziegler said he’s been “really impressed” with McDaniels this season from a leadership perspective. The two were college teammates and worked together in both Denver and New England before coming to Las Vegas as a package deal.
“I was really impressed with Josh. Especially, I would say, when you are 2-5 years old, you are really being tested. Your leadership will really be tested. Your approach is really being tested, and I was really impressed with how Josh handled it,” said Ziegler. “His consistency with the team, his messages to the team, his attitude. He continues to teach. I see the players continue to improve not only under Josh’s supervision but also under the supervision of the rest of the coaching staff. I think the game direction was good. And I think he had a good plan every week. We must carry out the plan.
“And I think that was something the team would tell you, we weren’t very consistent. We didn’t have 11 guys who performed consistently enough on a play-in and play-out basis. And when you’re playing against good teams, you have to do it more consistently than not. And in the past week we haven’t done that well enough. But I think Josh has done a great job and I have full confidence in him and his ability to lead this team going forward. Faith in him as an offensive coordinator and faith in him as a teacher. And I think one thing I’m going to mention again because I think it’s really important is that I’ve seen a lot of players improve here under his and his coach’s supervision. And again, the results are the results, we’re 2-5. Well, none of us did our job well enough, including me. We’ll keep pushing ourselves to get those results and by the end of the season we’ll see where we’re headed.”
Ziegler made it clear that the team believes in a plan and is confident it will work out over the long term.
“Like I said when we were hired, we weren’t just hired to, I would say, change the culture and develop the culture here. We have also been tasked with building a football team that can stand and win,” he said. “That’s why the focus is always on the long term, that’s what it has to be. And so every trade we’ve made up to this point has been long term. The contract extensions we carried out were geared towards the long term. And so there will always be that focus. Again, we can’t really let the results of seven games steer us in any other direction. We have a plan and an approach that we will stick to, that we believe in. That doesn’t mean we won’t tinker with it; You know what I mean? It’s not saying that you won’t find a flaw in your plan and you’re going to say, ‘You know what, we need to make an adjustment, or we need to take a different perspective on it.’ You cannot be so narrow minded that you are not open to change during the process and be flexible and learn new things during the process. But at the same time we will always try to improve the team in the short-term with some short-term solutions, with an eye on the long-term. And that’s how it’s always done, and that’s what we believe in at the end of the day, if we refrain from doing that, we think it’s going to bring good results for the Raider organization.”
We’ll see how things play out, but it’s clear Ziegler’s confidence is still high despite the unexpected, difficult start to the Raiders’ and McDaniels’ tenures.