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The Details Behind Mark Davis Firing Josh McDaniels

Postgame meetings, player grievances and disagreements on who should start at quarterback led to the Raiders’ owner pulling the plug on the former Patriots coach and GM Dave Ziegler.

Davante Adams’s frustration boiled over in a big way Monday night—with the Raiders star receiver slamming his helmet after Jimmy Garoppolo missed on a second would-be long, walk-in touchdown. Adams declined to comment much after the game for fear of what he might say.

But Adams’s actions will be seen as a flashpoint in Las Vegas firing Josh McDaniels after 25 games.

The truth? It was probably over for McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler well before Adams’s helmet hit the Ford Field turf.

Raiders owner Mark Davis fired coach Josh McDaniels late Tuesday afternoon, 21 months after he hired him and GM Dave Ziegler to run the franchise after Jon Gruden was dismissed.

A noncompetitive effort on national television Monday in Detroit prompted Davis to fire McDaniels.

According to several staffers, and involved parties, owner Mark Davis’s decision to blow up his football operation just 25 games after hiring McDaniels and Ziegler started to feel inevitable in recent weeks. Davis was volatile and angry. The players weren’t happy, either. And, finally, a noncompetitive effort on national television Monday in Detroit prompted Davis to push the button and detonate McDaniels’s program.

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Some details on how it went down …

• One sign of trouble cited by coaches and scouts was a particularly aggressive postgame meeting Davis held with McDaniels after a Monday night win over the Packers in Week 5. Davis has had such meetings with coaches regularly over the years—they were the subject of a lot of scrutiny in Jon Gruden’s years in Vegas—but that the owner was so angry after a win got the attention of a lot of people in the building. And Davis’s reaction created an uneasy feeling within the coaching and scouting staffs.

• After a win over the Patriots in Week 6 evened the team’s record at 3–3, McDaniels had a decision to make at quarterback, with Jimmy Garoppolo’s back sidelining him for Week 7. Some coaches thought the right call was to go with rookie Aidan O’Connell. The decision from McDaniels to not start O’Connell was based on the Bears starting a rookie quarterback of their own. With the likelihood Tyson Bagent would turn the ball over, the hope was Vegas could get by with a clean game from Brian Hoyer. Plus, O’Connell threw a pick and fumbled three times in his only previous start against the Chargers in Week 4.

• But Hoyer was picked twice against the Bears, negating the edge McDaniels hoped the veteran would give the Raiders, and yanked after the second one. By then, Vegas was down 30–6. O’Connell, who was seen by at least some players as the best option going into the game, threw a pick on his first possession, but then rallied the offense for a garbage-time touchdown, engineering an eight-play, 60-yard drive to make the final 30–12.

• Four days later, McDaniels called a meeting and opened the floor to his players, allowing them to voice whatever they wanted with the team sitting at 3–4, and coming off a listless performance. The hope was the meeting would lead to increased accountability across the board. Instead, the meeting turned into an airing of grievances.

• In recent weeks, Davis had met with players, so the owner was well aware of those grievances, and where the stars stood on the direction of the team.

And all of that led to Davis firing McDaniels and Zielger late Tuesday afternoon. The staff got a text from McDaniels’s chief of staff, Tom Jones, around 7 p.m. PT, and McDaniels delivered the news to his coaches shortly thereafter.

That news didn’t become public for another three hours—and at that point, the coaches didn’t know for sure who their interim coach would be, and worked the rest of the day without knowing who it’d be.

How did they figure it out? Some first got the news that it was linebackers coach Antonio Pierce on Twitter, at around 10 p.m. local time. Soon thereafter, Pierce texted the coaches and informed them that his first staff meeting would be at 6:45 a.m. PT Wednesday. Players had a meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday, with the day marked as one without a full practice coming off the Monday night game.

The expectation for some is that Pierce will go with O’Connell at quarterback.

And from there? Davis has a lot of big decisions to make on the direction of his franchise just 21 months after he went all in on McDaniels’s vision for the team.