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Antonio Pierce takes over as interim coach of the Raiders

Antonio Pierce was named interim coach of the Raiders after Josh McDaniels was fired.Steve Marcus/Associated Press

Changes kept coming to the Las Vegas Raiders on Wednesday, and it’s up to interim coach Antonio Pierce to make sense of it all and try to salvage the season.

A day after the club fired coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi was let go, quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree was promoted to offensive coordinator, and Aidan O’Connell replaced starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo.

Pierce’s first game will be Sunday at home against the Giants, for whom he played from 2005-09 and started all 16 games on the 2007 team that won the Super Bowl.

Pierce, 45, deflected any personal meaning of facing the Giants, saying the game was too important for the Raiders (3-5) to be concerned about that.


“This is a great opportunity for myself,” Pierce said. “I’m humbled, I’m honored, and I don’t take it lightly. I’m sure there will be questions about why, how — those all get answered. But this is about the players, this is about the Raiders, and this is about this organization. We’re tired of losing. It’s not a good feeling for a production-based business.”

Pierce met with reporters alongside Champ Kelly, who was promoted from assistant general manager to interim GM. Kelly, 43, said he would not pretend to have all the answers and would learn from mistakes that inevitably would be made.

“Although the circumstances are not ideal, there’s always opportunity in difficulties,” Kelly said. “I’m so eager and excited to get to work.”

The change in coaches assured there would be a switch at quarterback, and now Raiders management and coaches get to see if O’Connell — drafted in the fourth round this year out of Purdue — is the long-term answer. If not, Las Vegas will have a quarterback-rich draft next year to try to find that player.


More Bears turmoil

The Bears fired running backs coach David Walker, leaving coach Matt Eberflus down two assistants after defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned in September and raising more questions about the team’s culture.

Walker was in his second season with the Bears. He was hired after Eberflus replaced Matt Nagy following the 2021 season.

“As the head coach, we are building a program,” Eberflus said. “We have standards to uphold as a staff and organization both on and off the field. And those standards were not met.”

The Bears are last in the NFC North at 2-6 and 5-20 in two seasons under Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles.

Eberflus was adamant the Bears have the right culture.

“The culture in our building is outstanding,” he said. “The guys work hard every single day. The relationship piece is there. We care about each other. We’re working diligently to get this thing turned.”

Eberflus offered few details about Walker’s situation, declining to say if his dismissal was for behavioral reasons and if it had anything to do with his coaching ability. He also would not say if he felt blindsided by Walker’s situation or the one involving Williams, who resigned Sept. 20, saying he needed to “take care of my health and my family.”

Poles seemed to shed a little more light on why Walker was dismissed.

“If you don’t meet those expectations of how you move around this building and how you treat people, how you talk to people, how you act, you don’t belong here,” Poles said. “So the alternative is you do nothing and you just kind of brush it under the rug and you’re cool with that, which we’re not. Or you act accordingly to make sure that your culture is strong.”


Heinicke Falcons’ starter

Taylor Heinicke has moved past turnover-plagued Desmond Ridder as the Falcons’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Coach Arthur Smith said the decision to start Heinicke was made “with all the variables considering everything.” Smith would not commit to Heinicke keeping the job past Sunday. “Really our focus is short term and what gives us the best chance for Sunday,” he said. The move comes with the Falcons (4-4) tied with the Saints for first place in the NFC South. Heinicke took over in the second half of last week’s 28-23 loss at Tennessee. At the time, Smith insisted that benching Ridder was not a performance-based move. Ridder was evaluated for a concussion and the second-year quarterback remained on the sideline after being cleared. Smith said Wednesday that Ridder is “clear and available” and will be Heinicke’s top backup against the Vikings . . . Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to practice after being sidelined for three starts and missing most of four games with an injured right shoulder. It’s a significant step for Watson, who didn’t practice at all last week because of the injury sustained on Sept. 24. Coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t ready to make a decision on his starting quarterback for this week. He said that if Watson, who is dealing with a strained rotator cuff, can’t play, backup P.J. Walker would face the Cardinals on Sunday . . . Giants quarterback Daniel Jones practiced fully for the first time since injuring his neck more than three weeks ago and pronounced himself ready to play against the Raiders on Sunday. Jones received medical clearance to practice fully before last Sunday’s loss to the Jets. Wednesday was Jones’s first chance to have contact in a workout. Jones said he felt good on the field and he had no intention of dialing back the way he plays. Over the past two years, he has been the team’s second-best rusher behind Saquon Barkley. The Giants (2-6) were 1-2 in Jones’s absence although they had a chance to win all three games with the defense turning in excellent efforts with the league’s worst-scoring offense struggling . . . Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had surgery for his torn right Achilles’. The team announced the procedure went as planned. They have not revealed a timetable for his return to full strength, but Cousins will miss the remainder of the season and his rehabilitation will stretch well into next year.