Not long ago, Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders were flying high thanks to a three-game victory streak that also saw quarterback Derek Carr in the NFL MVP discussion. Fast forward to now and the organization is in shambles, trying to regain composure after a two-game slide and following an email scandal involving Gruden that's since led to his resignation this week. It's special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia who gets the nod as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021 season and, and others inside the Raiders locker room, it's clear the 61-year-old has his work cut out for him.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Bisaccia first addressed Gruden's actions -- unequivocally condemning them.
"We have to be accountable to our words and our actions," Bisaccia said, via The Athletic. "No one person is bigger than the Raiders shield. The Raiders have always stood for diversity, inclusion and social justice. It's important to live those ideals and carry them into the future.
"We cannot change the past, but we can do more to maybe make tomorrow better."
The relationship between Bisaccia and Gruden runs deep, and is rooted in the time they spent together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before going in different career directions. But when Gruden signed his historic 10-year deal to join the Raiders in 2018, Bisaccia was one of the first he pulled into his new coaching staff, stealing him away from the Dallas Cowboys in the process. So as difficult as it must be for players like Carr and particularly Carl Nassib, the league's first-ever gay player to play in a regular season game, a similar battle of emotions is presumably occurring within Bisaccia.
You wouldn't know it, though, because he's focused on the task at hand, and isn't naive to what it'll entail on all fronts.
"No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation," said Bisaccia. "No one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances. But it's an incredible opportunity, not only for me, but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge."
For his part, general manager Mike Mayock believes Bisacchia will galvanize a locker room left shattered by Gruden.
"He's got as much respect in the locker room -- in our locker room -- as any coach I've ever seen in my life," Mayock said of his interim head coach. "Is he a great coach? Hell yeah. But he's an even better man. And what I've always told people when I've endorsed him is that he's the most natural leader of men that I've ever been around."
The role Bisacchia now takes on will be one of the more brutal interviews in NFL history, happening in real-time and under a remarkable level of scrutiny, and not because of anything Bisacchia has done wrong, but because everyone wants to know if the Raiders can recover from such a bombshell -- putting the onus on the head coach to make it happen. And with a list of very attractive candidates who might grab the Raiders attention in 2022, it's quite literally now or never for him, be it fair or not.
"We have a good team," Bisaccia said. "We have high expectations. We have high standards. ... There's a bump in the road.
"It's not the end of the road."