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Hill: Did Raiders really flip a coin to decide 1st-round pick?

There are often disagreements in NFL draft rooms when a team is on the clock, and there is nothing wrong with that.

These are potentially franchise-altering decisions, and organizations employ large staffs that put in a full year of work to get ready for that moment.

When so many voices are heard and so much information is available, a decision on which name to write on the card is rarely going to be unanimous. It’s good to have people willing to share dissenting opinions. It’s a sign of healthy dialogue.

A team coming to such a stalemate that it has no other option than to flip a coin, however, is absurd and embarrassing.

Yet that’s the narrative that has developed about how the Raiders arrived at the selection of tight end Brock Bowers over cornerback Terrion Arnold in the first round.

Is it true? Let’s explore that for a bit. But first, for those who are wondering what on earth this is even about, let’s take a look at how we got here.

Origins of Coingate

These sorts of war room stories usually get floated out after the draft through word of mouth and eventually social media, often making it quite difficult to track down the origin.

Not this time. We know exactly where it came from.

Arnold went on a podcast this week and ignited Coingate while discussing how he slipped to the Lions at No. 24 after indicating the Detroit front office didn’t believe the Raiders would pass him up.

“The Raiders’ coach, they called me after the draft, and they were like, ‘You know, we actually had a coin toss between you and Brock Bowers and landed on him,’” Arnold said. “I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ ”

It’s the appropriate reaction to an absolutely wild claim. Or at least it would be if it were true.

Antonio Pierce is the Raiders’ coach. While the team has many coaches, it seems implied that Arnold was talking about him. That assumption is supported by Pierce’s budding relationship with Arnold in the predraft process being the main reason Arnold was so heavily linked to the Raiders in the first place.

So what does Pierce have to say? Officially, not much.

“I only talk about Raiders,” he said when asked about the claim Friday at his rookie camp news conference.

He offered a stronger denial to ESPN’s Ryan Clark.

“No call, and no coin flip,” Clark posted on social media of what Pierce told him about the situation. “As soon as the last two quarterbacks went off the board, we said Bowers all the way.”

That’s pretty definitive.

It also eliminates one of the most commonly offered explanations for how this all went down, and frankly the most plausible one. The prevailing theory was that Pierce called Arnold and used the term “coin flip” as a figure of speech, only to have Arnold understand it in the more literal sense.

Pierce’s strong denial of even making a phone call in the first place means that the Raiders coach Arnold was referring to is someone else in the organization — or one of them is not being truthful.

A time for humor

There’s really not a middle ground there, which is certainly different from how the questions were handled by other senior members of the organization.

“Yeah, I can’t confirm that at all,” assistant general manager Champ Kelly said. “Terrion is a good player. I’m excited to watch his career and watch him play. But we drafted Brock, and we’re excited to get him here. And I don’t think anyone else in our whole draft room felt any other way.”

General manager Tom Telesco actually had the best response. While he said some of the same things as Kelly and pointed out that the organization had run all the possible scenarios and was unanimous even before the draft that Bowers would be the choice if all the quarterbacks were gone, he added some needed humor to a situation that desperately called for it.

“Typically, I use a magic 8-ball and not a coin,” Telesco told NFL Network.

That’s the correct way to handle a story that has already spiraled out of control. But where does it leave us?

The sharp money is still probably on Pierce, who is still new to all this, having called a guy in Arnold that he became close with during the draft process and trying to make him feel better by using the expression “it was a coin flip” and then having Arnold take it literally and turning it into a national story.

But who knows? Hopefully this story can just be a fun footnote that provided us entertainment as we all wondered whether Bowers was the heads or tails option and what kind of coin the Raiders used and whether said coin came from the pocket of Telesco, Pierce, Kelly or someone else in the war room.

Or is there a designated coin for draft decisions that Mark Davis keeps in his pocket all year?

Either way, it really doesn’t matter. It’s probably time to let it go.

Unless you really need a definitive answer before you can move on.

In that case, I recommend pulling on a wishbone or playing eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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