The Dragging of Josh McDaniels Has Begun as Hunter Renfrow Celebrates Not Having to 'Walk on Eggshells' Anymore

Matthew Stockman. Getty Images.

There are times when a football coach is let go, and out of respect no one makes a public statement that is anything but positive and supportive. To throw out a recent example because it just happens to be sort of front of mind, Brian Flores. If a bad word was said about him by any player or coach in the Dolphins organization, I missed it. And he was fired under sketchy circumstances that caused him to sue the team. 

But generally speaking, those cases are the exception. They require either a rare type of man who gained everyone's respect, or they're someone who earned it over a long and successful career. And it follows that the less time you spent on the job before getting security to hand you a moving box and see you out, the sooner people will start taking shots at you, and the more of them there will be.

Which means that, if you measure fired coaches by how short their tenure was, you'll only find one recent example who was around less time than Josh McDaniels: Urban Meyer. He was in Jacksonville for a mere 13 games, then was verbally savaged by anyone even remotely associated with him. McDaniels lasted 25 in Las Vegas. So while history may be kinder to him, it'll only be by a matter of degrees. 

And so we come to the part where the first of his Raiders players has spoken out. And while it's not the one you'd think it is:

It is someone whom you could argue has a very legitimate beef:

Las Vegas Journal Review - If anyone in the Raiders’ locker room was in need of a fresh start, it’s probably Hunter Renfrow.

The wide receiver, whose role has been greatly diminished this season, agreed with that assertion. …

“I still have to take advantage of it,” Renfrow said. “You only get one mulligan. But I’m excited to go out there and just be myself again.” …

Renfrow certainly liked what he heard when [Antonio] Pierce held his first meeting with players Wednesday morning.

“That went really well,” Renfrow said. “I think (Pierce) just let us kind of be ourselves and let our hair down. Just have fun playing football again and not just walk on eggshells everywhere. Just go out there and enjoy playing like we’re kids.”

We've heard this same complaint a time or two in New England. That football is too serious in Foxboro and not "fun" enough and so it's not conducive to winning. But not very often at all, all things considered. And the few who did complain could easily be dismissed as malcontents given how many guys with Super Bowl rings loved this atmosphere of focus and professionalism. 

But there's a difference. In case you haven't heard this before, no one else is Bill Belichick. So many of his assistants try to do business like him but fail because they lack the gravitas. The legitimacy. And the assurance that he's only as tough on them as he is in order to get the very best out of them, and for no other reason. As he himself has said, "I'm not the easiest coach to play for." And that's the understatement of entire history of language. 

I say Renfrow has a beef because his numbers are absolutely astonishing:

Pre-McDaniels 2021: 17 games, 128 targets, 103 receptions, 1,038 yards, 9 TDs. When targeted: 1 INT, 119.6 passer rating

With McDaniels, 2022-3: 18 games, 66 targets, 46 receptions, 422 yards, 2 TDs. Targeted: 4 INTs, 71.0 & 78.1 pass ratings

I'm sure there are many reasons for his numbers going off a the Continental Shelf and sinking to the bottom like this. But if I had to pick one, I'd choose McDaniels' catastrophic to take a 2021 Pro Bowler who had about a 65/35 split between lining up inside vs. outside, and moving him exclusively in the slot. And keeping him there, even after it clearly failed to work out in 2022. A decision make all the stranger when you consider this year McDaniels added Jakobi Meyers, who was his primary slot guy for the first four years of his career. 

Whatever the cause, it's obvious from the way Renfrow is talking that McDaniels had created a high-pressure environment in Vegas that neither he nor anyone else was responding to. And the whole "passionate team meeting" thing would seem to bear that out:


Now Renfrow sounds more relaxed and happy. They've got more of "players coach" who's changing the culture in the locker room. And that is all well and good. The problem with that is it means they have to respond in a way that proves it was McDaniels all along. If they keep losing and Renfrow keeps catching passes at a rate of 1.25 per game, the world will put the failures all on them.