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The Case For Rich Bisaccia

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 09: Interim head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia of the Las Vegas Raiders smiles as the team warms up before their game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 35-32 in overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While Comrade Thompson is monitoring the body count in his own inimitable style, which is to say him jumping about his living room like a freshly sugared chimp shrieking, “I AM THE RIGHT HAND OF UNCLE DEATH AND I MUST BE SATISFIED!”, I now make the case for one who must be saved even though he too has been marked for the chop: Rich Bisaccia.

I will now pause while you try to remember who that is.

OK. Got it now? We good? Fine. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia will surely be replaced by the Las Vegas Raiders when their playoffs end, which could be as soon as the very first game of wild card Saturday in Cincinnati, but I would put it to Mark Davis, Mike Mayock, and whoever handles the midnight-to-four blackjack table shift at the Bellagio that Bisaccia has provided something the Raiders have aggressively avoided since Ronald Reagan, and that is this: 

Someone who hasn’t failed yet.

Since Hall of Fame coach Tom Flores got did after the 1987 season, the average tenure for a Raider coaching regime has been 33 games. That’s two seasons and an eight percent tip, which is an insult by Vegas table standards. Worse yet, those coaches have averaged 52 minutes of playoff football apiece—not even a full game. Only four of those coaches got as much as three seasons and two of them were Jon Gruden. In short, this is the Temple of Employment Suck, and will probably always be so.

But Bisaccia hasn’t sucked, at least not yet. Better still, he has brought a rare gift to the job that has always been grossly undervalued at Swords Through The Face, Inc.: normalcy.

Bisaccia came in to replace Emperor Gruden II after the latter’s emails from the 1956 part of his brain were unearthed as part of the Bruce Allen/Dan Snyder archives currently under 24-hour lawyer/armed guard surveillance, and he was handed a team that was beginning its annual disintegration. His was not heroic work—they are 7-5 with a minus-54 point differential under him—but it was rational, non-narcissist, players-first work. He has yet to win a game by two touchdowns, and his last four victories, in Games 14–17, have been by two, four, three, and three points. They could all have been defeats, since three of them came on the strength of Daniel Carlson field goals with no time remaining. Actually, maybe Carlson should be the next head coach. That would be a perfectly Raider-y thing to do, especially once Mark Davis emerges from his therapy bunker.

Bisaccia is under no definition of the term a state-of-the-art coach, but you know who is? Brandon Staley, the Los Angeles Chargers coach who is being hailed for calling the timeout that kept the Chargers, and us, from the best tie in franchise (and league) history. His decision gave the nation more Ben Roethlisberger and less Justin Herbert, and no matter your opinion on Roethlisberger, your opinion on Herbert’s entertainment gifts must surely be higher.

Rich Bisaccia was the guy who saw that Staley timeout and said, Screw it, boys, let’s win the thing, so maybe he might have ruined everyone’s precious Monday talking points. But he looked his players in the eye and said, “I believe in you,” which is a whole lot different than Gruden’s “I Believe In Me,” Hue Jackson’s “I Believe I’m In Charge” or Lane Kiffin’s “I Believe I’ll Leave,” just to name three recent failures. No team has needed to hear that more.

It is generally assumed that Bisaccia will get a gold bobblehead, a hearty handshake, and a Raider equipment bag to put his stuff in as he’s sent on his way after not ruining this Raider team. Maybe the next coach will be Jim Harbaugh because what better place for him? Maybe it’ll be Charles Woodson, if the wine and broadcasting things aren’t adrenalized enough. Maybe it’ll be one of John Madden’s kids because of the team’s House Of Windsor worldview.

But in a proper world in which even low-margin success is still success, and in a proper town in which you’re only as hot as your last four hands, Rich Bisaccia is owed the standard five-year deal for making the Raiders’ pain go away, like Jim Tomsula got in 2015 for making Jed York’s Harbaugh-fueled migraines subside. Bisaccia may only get the 21 additional games all Raiders coaches get, but on a day when heads are rolling like curling stones, someone should survive for just surviving. If nothing else, retaining Bisaccia delays the next truly ridiculous hire for a while.

By Raider standards, Rich Bisaccia has triumphed, even if only by the grace of Daniel Carlson’s foot. Most times, the only foot a Raider coach gets or really deserves is … well, you know.