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Raiders owner Davis soaking in atmosphere while envisioning what could be

But how far off are the Raiders from returning to the Super Bowl?

More than an hour after the start of Opening Night for this year’s Super Bowl, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis could be seen near the media entrance simply gazing up at the Allegiant Stadium rafters.

From the moment it was built, Davis envisioned hosting a Super Bowl inside Allegiant Stadium. With a glare in his eyes, the vision of bringing a Super Bowl to the City of Las Vegas has now come to life.

“I’m just getting [the reaction],” Davis said. “I haven’t been able to put it into words yet but it’s so exciting that the World Championship – the most valuable asset, the Super Bowl of the National Football League is being played in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

However, the two teams playing for the Lombardi Trophy inside of Davis’ nearly two billion dollar investment weren’t exactly a part of that plan.

The logos of both Super Bowl LVIII participants is shown on the big board inside Allegiant Stadium. Photo Credit: Terrel Emerson

 “I was just telling [KC Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt] as much as the 49ers and the Chiefs are my favorite teams outside of the Raiders, they earned it,” Davis said with a smile. “We have two great organizations playing in [the Super Bowl] and that’s what we have to become.”

The Chiefs-Raiders rivalry dates back more than 60 years with 130 games being played between the two and was solidified around the time of the AFL-NFL merger. On the other hand, the feud with the 49ers was bred through geography and would become known as the “Battle of the Bay,” with one game separating the two’s 15 meetings.

In preparation for Super Bowl LVIII, Kansas City made the Las Vegas headquarters its home for the week while San Francisco were relegated to the campus of UNLV.

While the rivalries live on, Davis is looking to both franchises as an example of what could potentially be for his Raiders.

“That’s the beginning – getting the right coach,” Davis said. “Getting our staff together [and] getting the players together.”

The Raiders haven’t made the Super Bowl since 2002 when it lost to a Jon Gruden-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Moreover, the team hasn’t hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 40 years as of this season.

Stability has been an issue for the franchise since then resulting in seven independent general managers and 17 different head coaches (including interims) in the meantime. Three of those general managers have come since the passing of previous team owner Al Davis in 2010 after he served in the role for 47 years.

Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels scratches his head during the team's Oct. 30 loss to the Detroit Lions. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Even with all the moving and shaking, the constant additions and subtractions, the Raiders have only been able to muster six playoff wins in 15 tries since last winning it all.

More changes came in the middle of this past season as the team moved on from then head coach Josh McDaniels following a 12-point loss on the eve of Halloween to fall to 3-5. McDaniels and then general manager Dave Ziegler were relieved of their duties in the late night hours on Halloween.

With the firings came the promotion of linebackers coach Antonio Pierce to interim head coach. Assistant general manager Anthony “Champ” Kelly filled Ziegler's former role as outright GM.

“The matter of fact is, I grew up in Compton, California,” Pierce said during his interim introductory press conference. “I was born a Raider, I was born with the Raiders rolling in the Coliseum in LA, I was rolling with NWA talking Straight Outta Compton rocking Raider hats.”

Surrounded by Raider legends, head coach Antonio Pierce and the Las Vegas Raiders celebrate a season finale win over the Denver Broncos. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

After taking over, Pierce led Las Vegas to a 5-4 record to finish second in the AFC West just behind Kansas City. Winning two Super Bowls as a pro bowl linebacker for the New York Giants, Pierce helped coach the Raiders’ defense to 14 takeaways and 30 sacks good for 10th and 3rd in the league respectively while giving up a league-low 16 points per game.

Additionally, Las Vegas finished as the least-penalized team in the NFL and completed two full games without accumulating at least one penalty flag.

This offseason, the interim tag was taken off and Pierce was hired as the franchise’s 23rd head coach in team history. Two years ago, Davis had the opportunity to make then interim head coach Rich Bisaccia the guy but opted to bring in the aforementioned McDaniels.

“It was a process,” Davis said. “It was about a nine-week interview and he passed the test.”

Kelly was also retained but will revert back to his assistant general manager duties as former San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers GM Tom Telesco has been brought aboard. Telesco will assume the same role for the AFC West rival Raiders after being hired four days after Pierce’s new contract was awarded.

“It’s a partnership,” Telesco said. “You’re working through the vision of the head coach: How does he want to play on offense, how does he want to play on defense, how does he want to play on special teams and you build it that way.

“When I interviewed for this job, I didn’t view it like the head coaching job was open. He’s the head coach. AP came in on short notice and produced on the field, didn’t do anything to not have the job. He was the head coach when I came and interviewed, that’s the way I looked at it.”


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