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A fragile culture mixed with offensive ineptitude led to Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis ousting Josh McDaniels, sources say, and a player-centric head coach is who many expect to take over the permanent job when the time comes.

McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler were fired late Tuesday night after just 25 games and 21 months on the job. "Morale was down," one source said, pointing to the way McDaniels ran the ship in Las Vegas.

McDaniels gathered the team for a meeting two Thursdays ago in what turned into a kvetching session. Things said in that meeting echoed what Davis had heard privately in one-on-one meetings with top players. Combine that with an offense that had played three quarterbacks in eight games and was incapable of scoring more than 20 points in a 2023 professional football game, and Davis had seen and heard enough.

Many inside the building felt that even though things weren't great and the issues were recognizable, Davis wouldn't pull the trigger due to the money he'd owe the fired parties.

McDaniels and Ziegler signed contracts that added up to nearly $90 million in total compensation over the life of the deals. The team was already paying out the settlement from former head coach Jon Gruden on top of the tens of millions of dollars remaining on these contracts.

It wasn't just the losing that led to McDaniels' firing. After all, sources there believed heading into the season that they'd have a three-year runway so long as things didn't turn into a disaster. Whether this season qualified as a disaster is up for debate — the team was 3-5, which isn't a death sentence — but a series of missteps and bad vibes were unavoidable.

If the three-year, $51 million contract to Chandler Jones in 2022 was bad, converting more than $6 million of his 2023 base salary into a bonus for cap relief was even worse.

The Raiders, from ownership down, were ready to move on from their longtime quarterback Derek Carr before the end of the 2022 season. McDaniels pushed for Jimmy Garoppolo while some in the building wished for a bridge quarterback to get them to 2024. Garoppolo, bad foot and all, signed a three-year, $72.75 million deal in the offseason, then signed a revised deal that lessened his 2023 cap hit after he passed a physical. He's owed an extra $11.25 million in salary if he's on the roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year. It seems impossible today that the Raiders would find a trade partner for Garoppolo, meaning cutting him and eating the dead money in the future is going to be their only option after the season.

Aidan O'Connell will start Sunday against the Giants, and some sources in Las Vegas believe he's clearly been their best option at quarterback since Week 1.

Following the dismissals, Davis named Antonio Pierce as interim head coach and Champ Kelly as interim GM. Pierce, 46, grew up a Raiders fan in southern California. He won a Super Bowl with the Giants, and after a stint coaching Arizona State joined McDaniels' staff in Las Vegas last year as the linebackers coach.

Kelly broke into the NFL In 2007 as a Broncos scout before working his way up the ladder. He's been in the running for GM jobs with the Jets, Falcons and Broncos in recent years. Kelly interviewed for the Raiders job that eventually went to Ziegler, but he impressed enough to be hired as assistant GM.

Ziegler and McDaniels came together as a package deal, but sources say Davis is unlikely to do the same thing this time around.

Should Davis not elevate Pierce and Kelly from their interim roles full-time, sources believe Davis will first hire the general manager before hiring the head coach. Davis, in a statement from the team, promised to run a "comprehensive" search for a head coach at the conclusion of the regular season.

Davis won't be able to conduct an in-person interview with a head-coaching candidate currently employed by another team until after the divisional round of the playoffs. He can do in-person interviews with GM candidates at the conclusion of the regular season, which would give him a two-week head start in that search.

Outside of good interviews in 2022 with Kelly and Ziegler, sources say, was Ed Dodds, the Colts assistant GM who is regarded as one of the next personnel men to become a general manager in the league.

The Raiders' top level of leadership has undergone several changes since the summer of 2021. A team president resigned, and his replacement was ultimately fired. Gruden resigned amid racist emails being released, and GM Mike Mayock was fired after the season. The team released Carr, and a slew of senior level executives have either resigned or been fired, including a chief operations officer who reportedly made it just three months with the team.

Who will Davis lean on in pursuit of his next coach and general manager? Last time he assembled a brain trust that was comprised of longtime team executives Dan Ventrelle and Tom Delaney, as well as former Raiders player and personnel man Ken Herock.

Davis is expected to keep two of those men in his circle this go-round — Ventrelle was one of the aforementioned fired executives — and add at least two more trusted voices. Davis hired Sandra Douglass Morgan in July 2022 to be the new team president, and she should be in the room with candidates.

Tom Brady is the other figure. Davis has long admired Brady, and this year he's tried to sell Brady a portion of the Raiders at a deeply discounted figure that other NFL owners have balked at. It's widely assumed around the league that Brady will have some amount of influence over the decisions to be made in Las Vegas.

Davis' last two head coach hirings have been strong offensive minds who did not pan out. He replaced those men with interim coaches who are player-centric coaches, and the expectation around the league is that he'd want that type of coach to lead his team into a new era.