Last week the Giants released Antonio Pierce and about two tenths of a second later, fans of every other team in the NFL, began talking about the possibility of him joining their favorite team. That goes ten fold for Raider fans.
The thinking is the the Raiders could use an upgrade over Kirk Morrison at the middle linebacker spot. The idea being to move Morrison to outside linebacker where he can better utilize his speed in coverage. But the question here is not whether Kirk should move outside, the question is whether Antonio Pierce would be an upgrade.
Pierce was the vocal leader and captain of that Giants defense for the past few seasons including their Super Bowl team. But there is little remaining of that defense that struck fear into opposing offenses. And the Giants are ready to stop looking at the past and start looking toward the future.
After the season the Giants fired their defensive coordinator. That was the first and most revealing evidence that they are starting the rebuild process. A process for which Pierce is just one of the casualties.
His intelligence and leadership qualities are second to none. He is getting older and more injury prone including being out the last half of last season with injury. Even prior to his injury, his tackle totals had gone down every year since 2006. He is the perfect candidate for dismissal in the instance of a team looking to rebuild. But losing a step or two is not his only detractor. He has never been a great tackler and has long been considered a liability in space. The words “open field tackle” and “Antonio Pierce” are rarely in the same sentence.
Kirk Morrison has similar issues. There has never been a question about his intelligence and he is certainly the quarterback of the Raider defense. But he gets caught up in the block far too often. Sure, he is always a league leader in tackles but most of those tackles are four or five yards downfield. Runs like that keep drives alive which allows Kirk to get even more tackles. This makes the tackle total stat extremely misleading.
So basically, if the Raiders were to replace Morrison in the middle with Pierce, they would be getting virtually the same player only past his prime.
And that is just the comparison on the field. Off the field Morrison is far superior. He is extremely well-spoken and is a Raider to his core. Heck, he grew up in Oakland as a Raider fan, went to high school at Bishop O’Dowd and his father has been a Raider season ticket holder for years.
The wildcard in all of this is the fact that Pierce is pretty much the perfect Al Davis type of acquisition. The Super Bowl winning player nearing the twilight of his career who is released by his former team. He is out to prove that he has a few good years left in him. That sound familiar?
And how ironic would it be if Pierce became a Raider just months after he said playing the Raiders was like a “scrimmage”? At this risk of taking that statement out of context, here is all of what he said:
“I do not like knocking teams,” Pierce said. “But right now, they’re struggling. We’re playing that game the other day and, honestly, it felt like a scrimmage, like a practice. It felt like we were going against our offense [in a controlled setting] as far as the tempo.
“There was no vibe of trying or effort from the Raiders at all from a defensive standpoint against their offense. We’re getting three-and-outs. You don’t hear nobody [saying], ‘Hey, let’s go!’ trying to pick the guys up, rallying them, getting guys fired up. There was nothing. It was quiet. A guy gets sacked or somebody gets beat, they just get up. It’s not like there’s yelling or no kind of [emotion] about the way they were playing.
“It was shocking to be out there in that game and get that kind of feeling.”
“It’s sad because I grew up a Raiders fan,” Pierce said. “That organization right now, they need some guidance. They need somebody to pick them up.”
Well, I suppose after saying he grew up a Raider fan, it wouldn’t be quite as ironic. Those are the Al Davis magic words. Not to mention how these words sound rather like he was applying for a position with the Raiders.
In the end, I would say “No”, I don’t think the Raiders should sign Antonio Pierce because it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. However, that doesn’t mean I think they won’t. That will remain a distinct possibility.