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Raiders coaches bring unique perspective: ‘The energy is different’

Ricky Manning Jr. thought he was experiencing a life-changing moment each time he came down with an interception in the NFC title game against Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in 2004.

The former Panthers cornerback, 20 years later, now views those three picks as just a prelude to his current job.

Manning is the Raiders cornerbacks coach and is one of seven former NFL players on the team’s staff. His experiences at the highest level of pro football give him a treasure trove of lessons to impart to the corners he now mentors.

“It was for this moment right now,” said Manning, who defeated the Eagles 14-3 in 2004 before losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl 38. “To be able to talk about big-time situations and big games and showing up big. And not just talking it, but living it.”

Experienced voices

It’s one thing to talk about scheme and technique and fundamentals to young players. It’s another thing altogether when you can back it up with real-life experiences.

That’s the edge Manning brings in his first year with the Raiders, along with new assistants and former NFL players Mike Caldwell (linebackers), Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (running backs), Gerald Alexander (safeties) and Andre Carter (pass rush).

Coach Antonio Pierce himself played linebacker in the league for nine seasons. Longtime wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett also has seven years of NFL playing experience.

The presence of former pros on Pierce’s staff is intentional.

He’s following in the footsteps of former NFL tight end Dan Campbell, who hired a slew of ex-players to his coaching staff in Detroit after being hired in 2021. The Lions won their division for the first time since 1993 last season and reached the NFC title game for the first time since 1992. Detroit proved it was possible to build a quality coaching staff composed of former NFL players who could relate to the pupils they teach.

“You’ve looked through the lenses that these guys are currently going through,” Alexander said. “And just understanding maybe some of the mistakes (they make) and be able to understand how you coach them.”

Been there, done that

The coaches’ messages hit a little differently when they’re coming from someone who played in the league compared to someone who didn’t.

“I’m not saying that they’re wrong, because there’s a lot of experts out here that never played a down,” cornerback Jack Jones said. “But it’s just harder to feel that, to understand. When you’re getting it from a former player, it’s almost like no question. Like he did this before, so I don’t even have to question it.”

Pierce still brought in former players with coaching experience. Each of his assistants have built up their resumes since their playing days were over, primarily in the NFL.

Alexander was the Steelers assistant defensive backs coach the last two seasons. Caldwell has coached in the NFL for 16 years and spent the last two as the Jaguars defensive coordinator. Carter has coached five seasons in the league, as has Manning.

Manning believes that together they give the Raiders an elevated level of expertise. And juice.

“The energy is different,” Manning said. “You know, it’s just different when you got guys that got blood, sweat and tears in this thing, and you can feel that. I can’t help it, you know, and we have fun with it, too.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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