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A leader of men: Bisaccia maximizes opportunity with Raiders

Updated January 8, 2022 - 12:11 pm

The uncertainly that accompanies this particular offseason doesn’t seem to faze Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia. Not at the press conference podium inside the team’s training facility and probably not at practice, either, based on testimony from the players inside the locker room he leads.

There is no offseason for Bisaccia, who lives and coaches in the present. Only this season. This week. This practice.

This game.

“I haven’t thought one second about (the offseason). All I thought about was today’s practice and can we improve a little bit throughout the meetings, throughout the walkthrough,” Bisaccia said during the days preceding what could be his final game as the interim skipper.

“Our focus is on playing a home game Sunday night in front of a Raider Nation and hopefully a black-out crowd. So we’re excited about it.”

Win or lose Sunday night, Bisaccia has maximized the opportunity for which he waited a lifetime — proving qualified and capable of leading an NFL team as a head coach after two decades as an assistant. The Raiders are 6-5 under the 61-year-old’s watch, winning three consecutive games to preserve the franchise’s postseason aspirations.

Should the Raiders beat the rival Chargers at Allegiant Stadium, Bisaccia will prepare the team for its first playoff game since Jan. 7, 2017, and second since the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency.

But even if they don’t, “We love him,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. “We’ve tried to embrace everything that he’s teaching us and saying to us and make it about us and really nobody else.

“I think we’ve done a good job of that so far. And hopefully we can win this game and get into the playoffs because that would be something.”

‘No one cares’

That it would be, amid the cacophony of chaos through which Bisaccia has steered the Raiders: Jon Gruden’s degrading and derogatory emails and resignation. Henry Ruggs’ fatal car crash. The injuries.

But like Carr said Wednesday, “No one cares.”

It’s a mantra the Raiders have adopted under Bisaccia and one Carr reiterated throughout the course of the season before delving into a full explanation of its origin. Bisaccia’s son shared a writing with Carr, who declined to “get into all what it says.” Though one part of it “literally says ‘no one cares.’”

“No matter what you go through, no matter how many situations you’ve had, no matter how many head coaches and coordinators and players have come through the buildings … no matter where you’re at, nobody cares. You just got to win football games,” said Carr, who revealed that Bisaccia recently shared that sentiment during a team meeting.

Such a message rings louder when the leader embodies it. Bisaccia does just that behind an affable demeanor. He poured into these men when he was simply their special teams coordinator.

The interim tag amplifies his message.

When asked about Bisaccia, an informal survey of players revealed that he values family, grit, perseverance and determination. But it’s the way he communicates those values that resonates with the Raiders.

“We just admire his genuineness. He’s a genuine guy. Fair coach. I love him a lot,” defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said. “Coach Bisaccia — everyone in the building that I’ve noticed has taken just a super, super liking to him. Even before he was given this position, just his leadership from me attending his special teams meetings just showed me a lot. That he has the qualities to be a really great head coach.”

Bisaccia is honest and direct about what he expects and demands, blending respect with accountability. He’s poised and even-keeled, according to linebacker K.J. Wright, addressing weaknesses and praising strengths to keep his players engaged on their quest for improvement.

“When you’re looking for a head coach, you want somebody that can lead young men. Somebody that can lead grown men,” Wright said. “With the adversity we’ve faced this season, he’s been nothing but tremendous for us.”

One more game?

Bisaccia defers credit to the players and assistant coaches who have keyed the run. Perhaps he’s privately campaigned for the full-time head coaching gig, but he hasn’t so much as hinted at it publicly as the regular season approaches its conclusion.

The reward for him is the improvement he oversees and the identity the Raiders have cultivated in the last month: one predicated on a physical defensive front that has worked to stymie opposing offenses in each of the past three weeks.

“Our team is competing with relentless effort to the bitter end in all games, and that they’re improving each day,” he says. “Again, we’ll just hope to improve after today and then see what tomorrow brings.”

The quote encapsulates his approach to coaching. The Raiders have reflected it with their play under his watch. A win Sunday would salvage a season of strife. A loss could conclude Bisaccia’s head-coaching tenure in Las Vegas.

Raiders owner Mark Davis will surely have a pool of suitable head coaching candidates from which to choose.

But Bisaccia is maximizing his audition.

“He’s the same guy every single day,” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “He works his ass off. He’s going to keep it real no matter what. He’s not going to sugarcoat anything.

“If I need something, he’s the first guy I go to — since Day One. Since I got here three years ago. … The guys respond really well to him. I love having him as my head coach.”

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

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