It’s been a long time coming for Rich Bisaccia. Twenty years at the NFL level and 39 years coaching football to be specific. And since 2008 the Special Teams Coordinator has been the Assistant Head Coach on every team he’s been a part of.
After all that, the hope would be that Bisaccia would get a head coaching job in the more conventional way — interviewing for the job in the offseason and being hired and asked to put together a staff. But when you’ve waited this long, you take the opportunity as it comes.
“Yeah, this is certainly an exciting moment,” said Bisaccia. “No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation. No one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances. But it’s an incredible opportunity certainly, not only for me, but all the other coaches that are here to see what we can do with this adversity. See what we can do with this challenge. See what we can do with the next day, and the same thing for our players. So, am I excited? I’m certainly excited. Am I beyond excited? I just know that to some degree we are all football coaches.
“Somebody once told me, I asked a coach I worked for a long time ago, I said, ‘Coach, when do you know you’re ready to be the head coach?’ He said, ‘when they give you the hat and whistle and tell you you’re the head coach.’ So, I’ve been doing a lot of different things in this football world for a long time, so with the help of all those other assistants that are up there we are going to do the best job that we can and we’re looking forward to having the opportunity to play ball again.”
The ‘particular situation’ Bisaccia and the Raiders find themselves in is, of course, Jon Gruden being forced to resign after several leaked emails surfaced with him using racist, misogynist, and homophobic remarks. That makes this not even your typical interim head coaching position because typically those jobs come open when a season is already lost. In this case, the Raiders are 3-2 with most of the season still ahead of them.
“He’s a very strong leader and a great thing about him is his immediate direction,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of Bisaccia. “And in a time like this you know exactly where he stands and what is expected and we go. And the relationship he has with the players and staff is complete trust. And I think that’s just such a big part of it.”
Bisaccia, Bradley, and Gruden all go way back. They were all on the same staff in Tampa for several years. It was Gruden who Bisaccia credits for giving him his first NFL job back in 2002 with the Buccaneers. Bisaccia was retained by the Buccaneers for two seasons after Gruden was fired in 2008. From there Bisaccia went on to coach with the Chargers (2011-12), Cowboys (2013-17), and the reunited with Gruden with the Raiders in 2018.
It’s clear from his resume that Bisaccia is highly respected, both by the organizations with which he coached and the players who played for him. And beyond.
“The irony is I’ve endorsed him for a lot of head coaching jobs over the years, both in college and the NFL, back when I had a different job,” Raiders GM Mike Mayock said, speaking of his time as an NFL Network analyst. “He’s got as much respect in the locker room, in our locker room, as any coach I’ve ever seen in my life and the reason he does; is he a great coach? Hell yeah. But he’s an even better man and what I’ve always told people when I endorse him is that he’s the most natural leader of men that I have ever been around.”
When you hear Bisaccia speak, it doesn’t take long to see what Mayock is talking about in terms of Bisaccia’s natural leadership abilities. He’s an inspiring guy. He gets his players pumped up. And as the Special Teams Coordinator, he tends to coach more players than any other coach on the team, including those who play in every phase of the game. And also has a substantial say in who makes the roster. Much like a head coach.
“We’re certainly involved in the personnel part all the time, how the roster works on game day, how the 53-man roster works,” Bisaccia said of his Special Teams Coordinator duties. “Mike [Mayock] and I, we’re in conjunction about the practice squad which has been a big deal now with 16 players on it, and then time. Special teams’ coaches are very aware of time because you get a little time in practice or a lot of time, or when you get a special teams practice. How it all fits and how it all works. And so, I feel like maybe it’s a leg up.”
But if you were looking for any more reason to root for Bisaccia, you need only watch him talk about what he thinks about now that he’s reached the height of his profession as a coach.
“Yeah, you know, your parents come to mind,” Bisaccia said, fighting back tears. “I mean my dad was the head football coach at New York Giants, he just never told anybody. I got five sisters, I got four kids, five grandkids. So, to have an opportunity to be the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, wow! I guess really that’s the only thing I’m going to get choked up about.”
Tough spot. But a great opportunity for a great man. It is hard not to root for him to succeed.