The Raiders’ search for a general manager and permanent head coach crossed the nine-day threshold on Wednesday. But rather than the process narrowing, it actually appears to be expanding.
Say this much for owner Mark Davis and his circle of trusted advisors: The methodical pace for which the search is unfolding suggests a disciplined commitment to allowing the process to guide him to an ultimate decision.
One that might lead right back to Rich Bisaccia as the Raiders’ full-time head coach or get pushed in a totally unexpected direction. Or maybe it will direct the Raiders to whatever preferred outcome they originally had in mind upon commencing their search.
Like, say, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh being paired with general manager Ed Dodds, the former Raiders personnel department intern and current assistant general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
The creation of that power tandem took a potential step forward on Wednesday when the Raiders officially met with Dodds about their general manager vacancy.
His connection to Harbaugh goes all the way back to the early 2000s when Harbaugh was the Raiders’ quarterback coach and Dodds was learning under the late Al Davis.
Granted, it’s guesswork trying to decipher to what extent their time together forged any deep desires to eventually work together. But with Harbaugh’s name continuously being linked to the Raiders, it would be naive to not consider the possibility once the Raiders began showing interest in Dodds.
Nevertheless, the wide net the Raiders have cast on both of their searches points to a willingness to be swayed in an entirely different direction.
To that end, they are up to eight candidates for the general manager job after talking to Dodds on Wednesday and asking for permission to speak with Tampa Bay vice president of player personnel John Spytek.
That follows previous interviews with former Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster, now a scout with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt, Chicago Bears pro personnel executive Champ Kelly, New England Patriots player personnel director Dave Ziegler, Cincinnati Bengals scout Trey Brown and current Raiders director of pro scouting Dwayne Joseph.
On the head coaching front, Bisaccia is still in play along with Patriots inside linebacker coach Jerod Mayo, who interviewed on Tuesday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is expected to interview on Thursday, and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who reportedly could talk to the Raiders after the 49ers play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in the NFC Championship game.
Meanwhile, Harbaugh continues to hover along with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Both Mayo and McDaniels have ties to Ziegler.
Harbaugh represents as close to a sure thing as any of the known coaching candidates, having taken the 49ers to three NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in his four seasons in San Francisco, and breathing life into a then-morbid Stanford program. His work in Michigan has been up and down over the last seven seasons, but the Wolverines are coming off their first appearance in the College Football Playoff and their first win over rival Ohio State since 2011.
With the Raiders coming off a 10-win season and their first playoff appearance since 2016, they can’t afford to take any steps backward. If you’re playing connect the dots, a pairing of a franchise in win-now mode and a coach with an unquestioned track record of success makes incredible sense.
Maybe that is what the Raiders have had in mind all along. But the longer the process marches on, the more it seems they are willing to let it guide them to an outcome.