There is perhaps no finer judge of an offensive play-caller’s skills than his counterpart, his natural nemesis, the defensive coordinator.
So it bodes well for the Raiders that their new DC Patrick Graham thinks highly of Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels and doesn’t hesitate to say so. As most are aware, McDaniels comes to the Raiders after a successful career as an offensive coordinator and will call plays for his new team this season.
Case in point: Graham told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated he’d argue that McDaniels is the best play-caller in the NFL. McDaniels and Graham used to be colleagues with the Patriots and also squared off as opponents, in the offense vs. defense chess match that makes the NFL so riveting play after play.
“One, he’s really smart. Two, he works hard. And there’s an extreme attention to detail,” Graham said. “[When] I was working on the opposite side of the ball in New England, you could see that. When you see him from afar, when I was at Green Bay and had to play against him, when I was at Miami and had to play against him, you could see that. … I would argue he’s the best play-caller in the league.”
Graham also told Breer he followed McDaniels to Las Vegas because he’s enticed by the challenge of stopping opponents in the quarterback-rich AFC West.
But back to McDaniels. He inherited an offense that had success passing the ball last season with quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, and tight end Darren Waller. All three of those players will return, and Las Vegas added arguably the top WR in the NFL, Davante Adams.
That sounds like enough to make opposing defensive coordinators lose their minds. It will still be interesting to see how McDaniels uses his playbook, mostly because of what appears to be a suspect offensive line, at least at this point.
Graham and the defense have to do their job, of course, but McDaniels is the key to the season. Las Vegas’ roster is loaded with offensive skill players, and it would be difficult to have a better reputation than McDaniels as a play-caller, even without Graham’s comment.
Simply put, Raiders fans and the NFL expect fireworks from McDaniels’ offense this season. Scoring more touchdowns may be enough, however. In 2021, the Raiders offense gained the 11th-most yards in the NFL but only ranked 18th in points scored.
Was that due to the last season’s suspect offensive line? Was it the lack of a consistent outside threat at wide receiver? Poor play calls? Perhaps something else? It’s McDaniels’ job to find out and take the Raiders offense to another level, and he has an impressive group of playmakers as chess pieces.
Graham definitely thinks McDaniels has what it takes. Coming from a defensive coordinator and a highly thought-of coach in his own right, that opinion speaks volumes and provides optimism for what figures to be a pivotal season in Las Vegas.