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5 mistakes that cost Josh McDaniels his job with the Raiders

Updated November 1, 2023 - 4:26 pm

Josh McDaniels leaves Las Vegas with a 9-16 coaching record, worse than the 11-17 mark in Denver that cost him his job in 2010 coaching the Broncos.

It’s obvious amid his firing on Tuesday that he didn’t learn from his mistakes.

Here are five of the most significant ones he made in two seasons with the Raiders:

1. Maintaining the ‘Patriot Way’

Instead of establishing a custom culture around the players he was hired to coach, McDaniels attempted to pigeonhole the Raiders into a past underscored by Tom Brady’s singular greatness.

McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, who also was fired Tuesday, signed several former Patriots players. He maintained the offensive system that Brady mastered in New England.

But he’s not Bill Belichick, and he didn’t have Brady and therefore didn’t succeed with Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo as his quarterbacks.

Carr and McDaniels never clicked, and Garoppolo’s physical erosion predates his arrival in Las Vegas.

As the rest of the NFL pivots toward mobile quarterbacks and offenses with optionality, McDaniels ran his exact same stuff — failing to exceed 19 points offensively in all eight games this season.

2. ‘The field goal’

Facing an eight-point deficit in Week 3 against the Steelers and a fourth-and-4 at Pittsburgh’s 8-yard line with 2:25 to play, McDaniels elected to kick a field goal instead of going for a first down.

On their ensuing possession, the Steelers utilized all but 15 seconds, leaving the Raiders without a realistic opportunity to drive the field and regain the lead.

His explanation was more dumbfounding than the decision itself.

“You try to make it a five-point game (with the field goal), where you have an opportunity to win it with the touchdown if you get the ball back,” he said.

“Or you try to go for it there. And then if you happen to convert, then you’ve got to make the two-point conversion.”

McDaniels in a microcosm.

3. Shelving Renfrow

Among the first orders of business for McDaniels and Ziegler was the re-signing of slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who in 2021 caught 102 passes for 1,038 yards and nine touchdown en route to Pro Bowl honors.

But McDaniels — despite the team’s offensive ineptitude — fastened the 27-year-old to the bench.

Renfrow struggled with injuries in 2022, but returned healthy in 2023 to play 38 percent of the offensive snaps and catch 10 passes for 92 yards.

That for an ailing offense ranked 30th in scoring (15.8 points per game) and 31st in total offense (268.3 yards).

4. Sticking with Hoyer in Chicago

Longtime McDaniels disciple and veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer replaced the injured Garoppolo, steering the Raiders in the second half to a Week 6 win over the Patriots — and garnering the start behind center the following week against the Bears.

He responded with 132 passing yards and two interceptions — including a pick six — while rookie Aidan O’Connell watched idly from the sideline

The Raiders lost 30-12, and McDaniels defended the decision to stick with Hoyer, whom O’Connell finally replaced late in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t think everything was the quarterback’s fault, certainly,” McDaniels said. “I thought there were some missed opportunities that we had. I thought he hung in there and kept playing.”

5. The awful losses

The loss to Chicago — and undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent in his first NFL start — is one of many that were ultimately too embarrassing for owner Mark Davis to endure.

The Raiders under McDaniels’ stewardship blew five double-figure leads in the second half of games. They also fell to the Colts in Jeff Saturday’s first game as their interim coach; the Rams in Baker Mayfield’s first game as their quarterback; and the Saints in a game during which the starting offense couldn’t cross midfield.

It’s impossible to reduce these to a single decision, but they encompass the perpetual ineptitude McDaniels displayed as a head coach.

He struggled to game-plan. He struggled to adjust.

He struggled at everything that successful head coaching requires.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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