Is Rich Bisaccia the Long-Term Coach for the Raiders?

 

Las Vegas Raiders, interim coach, Rich Bisaccia
Las Vegas Raiders, interim head coach, Rich Bisaccia and former coach Jon Gruden

1. Rich Bisaccia has some Raider fans living in the moment.

At last, a Daniel Carlson kick sealed a playoff berth for the Rich Bisaccia-led Raiders, but is it enough? They weren’t perfect, but they functioned as a complete NFL team. Bisaccia should get credit for that. But, with that being said, fans of the Silver and Black can’t become prisoners of the moment. Maybe Bisaccia is the next John Harbaugh, a veteran special teams coach who is a great leader of men. But with all the coaching vacancies going on, why has no one inquired about him? Yes, the team is still in contention, but the rumor mill is 24/7, and there is not one about him becoming a head coach for any other organization.

2. Derek Carr has been clutch but can Rich Bisaccia be trusted with determining who the offensive coordinator next season should be?

When the situation was bleak, Derek Carr delivered during each of the four consecutive victories to end the season. But, during these games, the offense was carried to the finish line by its special teams and defense. In the redzone, the Raiders ranked in the bottom third of efficiency with the Jaguars and Lions. Some may say that is complementary football, but the offense must do more to carry their weight moving forward. It remains to be seen whether or not the former special team coach would part ways with current offensive coordinator Greg Olson or go in a different and more explosive direction.

3. Can Rich Bisaccia attract free agents to the Raiders?

Free agents are always a hit-or-miss proposition for any NFL team. Without a doubt, it’s going to cost you more to get someone to come to play for a team led by Coach Bisaccia. The owner can cut the check; the GM can talk to the agent. But then, the impact players in free agency will want to both get paid and win. Moreover, they will want to know their role on the team. Rich may have difficulty with specific utilization on certain players, considering he has been a special teams coach his whole career. Free agents want to play with a proven winner, and while Bisaccia has done admirably this season – it is not a big enough picture to determine whether he is a consistent or effective NFL head coach just yet.

4. The Raiders’ opponents in 2022 will be a daunting task for any coach, let alone a new one.

The NFL is unpredictable — look at the schedule for the 10-7 playoff-bound Las Vegas Raiders this year. They beat good teams yet lost to some of the worst teams in the NFL. In 2022 here is the list of head coaches the Raiders will face:

  • Andy Reid (2x)
  • Kliff Kingsbury
  • Kyle Shanahan
  • Mike Tomlin
  • Mike Vrabel
  • Sean McVay
  • Sean Payton

It is critical that the Raiders obtain a coach who can go head-to-head with the league’s best. The team plays hard for Bisaccia, but his passive game planning in critical situations is concerning.

4. Rich Bisaccia may still be collateral damage in the Raiders cleaning house.

When you look across the current NFL landscape, some tough decisions are being made. Some teams are opting to remove many critical parts of their front offices.

For example, the Chicago Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. On the other hand, the Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer but have committed to retaining general manager Trent Baalke. While Jon Gruden’s resignation was purely based on off-field issues for the Raiders, it remains to be seen what Mark Davis wants to see change with the rest of his staff.

Subsequently, people will undoubtedly raise eyebrows when you draft the following players in the first round:

  • Henry Ruggs III
  • Damon Arnette
  • Clelin Ferrell
  • Alex Leatherwood

For general manager Mike Mayock, Bisaccia and numerous other coaches, they may see their judgement day based on that premise alone.

5. In the end, the Raiders deserve better.

Much was made over the 10 year $100 million contract that Jon Gruden signed with the Raiders in 2018. Some loved it, and some hated it. At the end of the day, it ended in poor drafts, no playoffs, and disgrace to the Raider brand. The only positive that came out of it was that the team got a reprieve. They have young foundational pieces littered throughout the roster and just made the playoffs. Rich Bisaccia did an excellent job keeping the team focused on the task at hand. However, he is not the long-term answer. The Silver and Black need a proven head coach this offseason.

Cincinnati vs Alabama: How Does Cincy Stack Up?

Cincinnati vs Alabama
Photo from: University of Cincinnati Athletics

The Cincinnati Bearcats made history as the first non-Power 5 team to ever make the College Football Playoffs. Due to this, we all get to watch Cincinnati vs Alabama for the first round of the CFB. Here we break down how Cincinnati stacks up vs Alabama.

QB Desmond Ridder vs. Alabama’s Defense

The biggest Cincinnati story line for their College Football Playoff game against Alabama will undoubtedly be QB Desmond Ridder. The senior QB is a first-round NFL draft talent who ranked 10th in FBS this year in QB Rating.

As good as Ridder is, he’ll be overshadowed by Alabama QB Bryce Young. The Crimson Tide sophomore finished second in FBS in passing TDs and bested Ridder in QB Rating. Young also garnered the QB spot for ESPN’s All-American Team and is a Heisman Trophy finalist.

How much Ridder feels like he has to prove by beating Alabama sets the stage for the CFP discussion. Ridder carried Cincinnati more than anyone else to become the first Group of Five team into the CFP. The ball is in his hands for the New Year’s Eve day clash with No. 1 Alabama.

RB Jerome Ford vs. Alabama’s Run Defense

Cincinnati RB Jerome Ford exploded for 1,242 rushing yards this year. That total ranked him 16th-best in FBS. He also had second-most rushing TD total with 19.

How Ford fares against the vaunted Crimson Tide is one thing. But the more intriguing story line is how much of a chip Ford believes he has on his shoulder. The junior RB spent two seasons with Alabama before transferring to Cincinnati.

Ford had 31 carries for 151 yards with three TDs in his Alabama career. He rushed for 187 yards alone in the 2021 AAC Conference Championship against Houston. The success Ford has on the biggest stage of his career will help shape the outcome of this game.

CB Ahmad Gardner vs. Alabama’s Receivers

CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner seems like a lock as a first-round NFL draft pick. But he might not be the first CB off the draft board. Whether that impacts Gardner in his prep for the biggest game of his Cincinnati career remains to be seen.

Granted, Alabama will be without John Metchie. The No. 1 receiving threat for the Crimson Tide tore his ACL in his team’s SEC Championship win over Georgia. Gardner won’t be able to showcase his shutdown skills as much with Metchie out.

But Gardner undoubtedly will draw Alabama speedster Jameson Williams in coverage. He’ll also have to flash his tackling and blitzing skills to show NFL teams just how good he is all around.

DE Myjai Sanders vs. Alabama’s Offensive Line

Cincinnati DE Myjai Sanders is as quick-twitched as they come off the edge. His pass rush quicks give him a good shot to go in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft.

But Sanders didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet in his senior season. His 2.5 sacks ranked him seventh on the team. His 34 total tackles ranked him 12th on the team.

Perhaps no other Cincinnati player has a better opportunity against Alabama to showcase himself to the NFL that Sanders. He’ll mostly line up against the Alabama right side of their offensive line. But don’t be surprised if he gets a crack at coveted NFL left tackle prospect Evan Neal during the game.

Coach Luke Fickell vs. Coach Nick Saban

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell has the rare chance to make the university a major football power. He can decide to stay with the school when it folds into the Big 12 web. Or he can pursue more lucrative opportunities.

So far, Fickell has opted to stay put. If that truly is his long-term goal, expect Fickell to coach against Alabama like it’s life or death.

What could be a bigger testament to his resolve to stay at Cincinnati with a win over arguably the greatest college coach of all-time in Alabama’s Nick Saban?

Chris Mack is Back for Louisville

Chris Mack Louisville
(Photo by Eric Crawford/WDRB.com)

Chris Mack is back for Louisville. His school-imposed suspension since the start of the season is over. His handling of the extortion committed against him by former assistant Dino Gaudio is now behind him.

But Chris Mack back for Louisville didn’t produce a road win in his season coaching debut. The Cardinals lost to No. 22 Michigan State Wednesday night 73-64.

Chris Mack Return Good for El Ellis

One beneficiary of Mack’s return took over the game late in the second half. Junior guard El Ellis scored 18 of Louisville’s final 19 points to cut an 18-point deficit in half. Ellis drained three triples and drove for six more points in the final seven minutes of the game. He finished with 22 points in just 19 minutes. The clinic by Ellis earned him a considerable bump in playing time.

Dre Davis Benefits from Mack Return

Another beneficiary of Mack’s return is Dre Davis. The 6-5 sophomore averaged under 19 minutes in Louisville’s first six games without Mack. Last season, Davis averaged nearly 29 minutes per contest.

With Mack back on the bench, Davis logged 34 minutes against Michigan State. He responded with 15 points, including 11 in the first half. Going forward, Mack will undoubtedly rely on Davis much more than assistant Mike Pegues did in Mack’s stead.

Chris Mack Can’t Shoot His Own Threes

The main takeaway from Louisville’s loss to Michigan State is that the Cardinals must improve their 3-point shooting. Louisville hit just seven triples in 27 attempts in the loss that dropped them to 5-2 on the season. Of the eight players who attempted threes, only three of them connected. Ellis led the way with 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

Those Cardinals who goose-egged on their threes were a collective 0-for-14. That includes leading scorer Noah Locke, Matt Cross, and Jae’Lyn Withers. This trio shot 28-for-76 from three-point range combined during the first six games. They collectively went 0-for-10 in the loss to Michigan State. That fail proved to be the difference in the game as Michigan State hit 10 of their 18 3-point attempts.

Chris Mack Back in Time for First ACC Game

Now that Chris Mack is back, Louisville can ratchet up their game against ACC competition. The Cardinals play their first ACC game against NC State (6-1) on the road this Saturday. If Mack can realize improvement in his team’s 3-point selection and results, Louisville can get conference play started on the right foot.

Michael Conforto: The Detroit Tigers Next Potential Move

potential detroit tigers free agent target michael conforto
Credit: Robert Sabo

The Detroit Tigers definitely made a splash in signing shortstop Javier Baez to a 6 year, $140 million deal. It was disappointing to some fans who wanted Carlos Correa or Trevor Story. One thing it brings them in flexibility in payroll to make another move. A move that could really put a finishing touch on the off-season and help the Detroit Tigers contend soon and make their line-up legitimate such as signing Michael Conforto.

Opening

First things first, we know Baez brings excitement to the game. He has a great power-speed combo, along with multiple Fielding Bible awards, and he has averaged a 6 WAR per 650 plate appearances since 2018. And he’s is still only 28. The thing that has made Baez inconsistent though is his hyper-aggressive plate approach. This led him to only a 59 OPS+ in the shortened 2020 season.

His swinging strike percentage was over 10% higher than league average since he entered the league, as well as his contact%. His aggressive approach has led him into his near MVP 2018 season but has also been a determent as by wRC+ and OPS+ he’s only about 3-4% above league average in his career.

A good proxy for plate discipline, in my opinion, is K%-BB% because if you are a smart passive hitter but overly patient they will both be higher, and if you swing aggressively but smartly then your K% will still likely be lower because you are making good swing decisions. Think of a guy like Jose Altuve, who swings often at the first pitch and is considered a great hitter despite his aggressiveness. He has roughly a 5% K-BB% in his career.

The issue for the Tigers is Baez joins Jonathan Schoop as one of the top four hitters on the team, and Schoop is also famous for a low plate discipline and bad swing decisions.  Baez has a 24.5% K-BB% and Schoop has an 18.3%. Now Baez isn’t expected to improve that, but it is something that if focused on in training can be improved slightly — but that’s if it doesn’t take away from his current game.

Robbie Grossman, who is among the lead leaders in walks, helps the Tigers get on base. This wins them games, but they need to add another impact bat who gets on base to help. Baez and Schoop can then sit in the middle of the order to drive these guys in.

Let’s play a game

Player A

127 OPS+, 3.5 WAR/650 PA, 30 HR/162 games, .259/.364/.473 average slash line, 592 games

Player B

127 OPS+,  4.5 WAR/650 PA, 29 HR/162 games, .277/357/.484 average slash line, 500 games

These numbers are since 2017. Player B gets a positional WAR boost. Player A is Michael Conforto and Player B is Carlos Correa. Conforto is less valuable sure, but he also plays a different position that hurts him. With the bat, these two are similar players. Since the Tigers have addressed their shortstop need and have a great defender there, Conforto is the cheaper option that Tigers should be able to afford — not to mention that he has been more durable.

After 2020 Conforto looked to possibly and even better hitter but he had a down year in 2021, something most projection systems see him being able to bounce back from. He also has a 2:1 K:BB ratio which is a lot better and a high OBP so he can both get on for the power hitters and take care of business himself, helping shore up the line-up of one of their bigger weaknesses that they have currently.

Another solid thing about Conforto is in recent years he has improved against left handed pitchers, though he still has a platoon split that would play a minor effect sometimes.

Conforto also could be given just a 1 year prove-it deal that would be more than affordable for the Tigers for around 20 million or possibly a 2-3 year deal for around 20 million a year. I am wondering if the Tigers could offer a 4 year, 80 million dollar deal that he would jump at. Conforto isn’t a superstar but he’s another guy that keeps the line-up going.

He has no standout metrics but he has been a consistently solid hitter in his career. Corforto is a good approach at the plate and a good swing that produce solid numbers. He is slightly below average in right field but he would shore up the mish-mash of Tigers outfielders available as well.

Potential Opening Day Lineup

1. LF Robbie Grossman

2. 3B Jeimer Candelario

3. RF Michael Conforto

4. SS Javier Baez

5. 1B Jonathan Schoop

6. DH Miguel Cabrera

7. CF Akil Baddoo

8. C Tucker Barnhart/Eric Haase

9. 2B Harold Castro

Conforto also wouldn’t lose much power at Comerica as his homers tend to fly and he has a solid LA/high percentile exit velocity combo and last year is xwOBA signaled bad luck. If he can get the ball off the ground more then he would be even better too. He’s not Carlos Correa with his insane tools but he isn’t far behind with his bat. He may be just what the Tigers need.

The Tigers could also sign another starter pitcher with the money saved and figure to add possibly one relief pitcher. But, I think Conforto would be the investment, or bang for their buck if they go shorter term. I’m not worried about the fact when Riley Greene comes up there would be four starter caliber outfielders.

Depth isn’t bad to have and those situations tend to work themselves out anyways via injury, play, and so on. I am confident Michael Conforto would become the Detroit Tigers’ best outfielder, at least until Greene starts to break out.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rematch Sets Playoff Stage

Bengals vs Steelers
Ja’Marr Chase snags this touchdown just before halftime in the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. (Photo by Sam Greene/The Enquirer)

Bengals vs Steelers Week 12 Rematch

The Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 rematch sets an AFC playoff stage this Sunday. The Bengals beat the Steelers 24-10 in Pittsburgh in Week 3. A Bengals win Sunday would mark the first time the team has swept the Steelers in the regular season since 2009. A loss by the Steelers could set their course to the bottom of the AFC North.

Steelers T.J. Watt might return against Bengals

Steelers star linebacker T.J. Watt did not play in his team’s Week 3 loss to the Bengals. He could be ready for the Week 12 rematch after injury derailed him in Week 10 in the Steelers tie against the winless Detroit Lions. A healthy Watt would be a difference-maker for the Steelers, who failed to sack Bengals QB Joe Burrow in the Week 3 loss.

Bengals go with ground game from Joe Mixon

The Bengals rode running back Joe Mixon for 123 yards on 30 carries in their Week 11 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Mixon dented the Steelers for 90 yards on 18 carries in the Week 3 Bengals win. Ground production from Mixon is key for the Bengals’ playoff push. It’s even more important against the Steelers to keep their pass rush off balance.

Steelers’ playoff life at stake against Bengals

Losses to both the Bengals in Week 3 and Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11 put the Steelers close to a do-or-die playoff position. The Steelers relied on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in both of those losses. He threw 58 times against the Bengals and 44 against the Chargers. The Bengals sacked him four times and linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted him twice in Week 3. But Roethlisberger should benefit greatly from the presence of leading receiver Diontae Johnson, who missed the first tilt with the Bengals.

Time to find out if the Bengals are for real

The Bengals still looked like AFC North contenders headed into their Week 9 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. After a 41-16 beating at home, the Bengals looked like more like playoff pretenders. Their playoff viability is in their hands against the Steelers this week and the Chargers next week. Both games are at home, which gives the Bengals a bona fide chance for redemption at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bengals vs. Steelers Prediction

The Bengals are still forming their identity. They could be great Sunday like they were in their Week 7 road romp over the Baltimore Ravens 41-17. Or they could get their identity handed to them like they did against the Browns.

The Steelers are far more recognizable. It took a fourth-quarter freakish frenzy against the Chargers to make a game of it. The Steelers look more like the cellar dwellers of the AFC North this year than the Bengals do.

So, let the playoff stage be set: Bengals 27, Steelers 23