Maxx Crosby wasn’t a household name coming out of Eastern Michigan in 2019 when he was selected in the fourth round by the Raiders. Almost immediately, he established himself as one of the league’s top pass rushers with 10 sacks as a rookie. In the four years since, Crosby has become a dominant all-around defensive end, tallying career-highs in 2023 in tackles (90) and sacks (14.5) for the Raiders.
A lot of that production came in the second half of the year after the Raiders fired Josh McDaniels and turned things over to Antonio Pierce as interim head coach. After a strong close to the season, Crosby was very vocal in support of Pierce being named the full-time head coach, which the Raiders did in January. Crosby’s explanation for why he was so supportive of Pierce was simple.
“You know, I feel like he said it best. Not everybody’s meant to be a Raider,” Crosby said. “AP is a home grown Raider. He’s a leader of men and he’s a guy that everybody respects.”
We got a chance to talk with the Raider defensive end ahead of Super Bowl week as he partners with Invisalign, which is the presenting sponsor of the 2024 NFL Honors. Crosby discussed Pierce’s hire and why he thinks teams go wrong chasing “gurus” as head coaches, how you have to approach Patrick Mahomes as a defense, the discipline required against the Niners offensive system, why “refinement” is the motto for his upcoming offseason, and his top Vegas restaurant recommendation.
Antonio Pierce has been named as full time coach. I know you were you were pretty vocal about wanting him to be there. What is it about him that you think will make him a successful head coach and why he was the right choice for this Raiders team going forward?
I feel like he said it best. Not everybody’s meant to be a Raider. AP is a home grown Raider. He’s a leader of men and he’s a guy that everybody respects. So when you have all those three things and the results to back it up, I feel like we started something really special. And now that we have the opportunity to have a full offseason and get ready to take another big step and add more pieces and bring the right guys in — the Raider type guys — I feel like it’s gonna be incredible.
How is that something that you’ve seen in the league, the importance of having a defined culture within the locker room? You always hear “everybody’s got to be pulling in the same direction” and everything like that. What have you seen about the importance of that and having a coach that can define that culture and make sure the team is able to take those steps forward?
Well, I think that’s the thing that everybody misses. Everybody’s looking for the next guru or the next coordinator, you know what I mean. But culture is the number one thing. I mean, if you can’t get everybody in the same boat, you’re never gonna win. When you have a guy who’s a true leader of man — a former Super Bowl champ, a former captain — he understands our shoes. He’s been in our shoes before and he can relate at that level, but he also can demand it at a different level as well. Because he’s been there, he’s done it, and he walks it like he talks it. It’s the same guy every single day. And that’s why me and him personally have a great relationship. That’s why the guys bought into what he preaches. And I feel like people saw it, it was like two different teams from the first half to the second half, and that wasn’t a coincidence. So we’re fired up, man. The future’s bright, but the work’s already started and we’re just fired up to keep moving forward.
As you look at this particular Super Bowl matchup, I want to ask for your perspective on it from the position that you play. Obviously, you see Patrick Mahomes twice a year. When you’re facing him and you’re talking with your guys on the D line, what are the things that you have to specifically focus on when you play him and the difficulties he presents to you as a pass rusher?
Yeah. The thing with him is you have to have four guys — if it’s four or five, whoever the amount of guys are rushing him — you have to be at your absolute best every play. There’s no giving up. There’s no jogging to the ball. It’s 100 miles an hour, we’re gonna hunt him from start to finish. And that’s the only way you’re gonna beat him. And it’s still [not a guarantee], like, that’s gonna give you a chance. He’s a great player.
And at the end of the day, you got to frustrate him and you have to hunt him and you have to hit him. You have to be in his face all day. So it takes everybody. It takes the coverage to be locked in, and the rush to get home. And that’s how I feel like we beat him up. Up front, we dominated, and on the back end, everyone was dialed in and in sync. So that’s gonna give you the best chance to beat them. They have a great team, there’s no doubt about it. Mahomes is gonna make things happen regardless but it’s who’s going to execute the best on that day and that’s who’s going to be the winner.
And then with the Niners. I know y’all didn’t play them this year, but that Shanahan system has grown [around the league] with all the motion, all the eye candy. As a lineman with that jet motion and knowing that you’re going to have that edge responsibility and contain responsibility sometimes, what are things you have to do in your prep to be able to know when to fire and when to hold back, when you’re going to need to be that edge contain guy and not let that misdirection slow you down and slow your process down?
Well, I mean, the way I came up as a D lineman, I’m a [Rod] Marinelli believer to the core. You stop the run on the way to the pass. There’s no such thing as play action, you just get off every single play, first, second, and third down. So it’s all about reading your keys. If you’re looking in the backfield, that’s like day one type stuff. If you’re a rookie and you’re looking in the backfield, everything’s gonna be … your pad level’s gonna be messed up, you’re gonna be not going to where you need to be. It’s all about reading your keys. Keep it simple. You have one key, you know what to read, and you go. You go 100 miles an hour.
So, you know, from the outside world, it’s very similar to how … it’s a lot different but it’s similar when it comes to the Chiefs offense. They have a lot of eye candy, a lot of motions, a lot of things going on, if you’re looking at the backfield, pads are gonna be up, your get-off is gonna be terrible and they’re gonna dominate. But if you’re looking at your key, you know what your key is, there’s no thinking. You’re going and you’re trusting what they give you. So if everybody’s on that same page and not getting turkey neck and looking in the backfield and doing things like that, then you’re going to have a good chance to go out there and perform.
Absolutely. You’ve got this partnership with Invisalign. How did that come about for you and what are y’all doing in Vegas for Super Bowl week?
Growing up I never had braces. It’s something that I’ve heard of, from afar. I know there’s over 400 guys in the league that have Invisalign. So I’ve heard from teammates and guys around the league as well. And so I literally just started it yesterday. I got them in right now and I’m all fired up about it. I want to get everything straightened out. So yeah, we’re on the road to doing that and they’re a great partner.
When you go into the offseason, what are the things you key on? I know getting healthy is one thing, but what are the things that you’re focused on going into this particular offseason that you want to build on for next year?
Every single offseason, I get back on my team, my nutritionist, my strength staff, all the guys I work with, the coaches, and we create a plan. And how are we going to take another big step forward? That’s what my focus is every single day. So for me, I typically have a theme every single year. And that’s something I keep on the back of my phone, I keep that personal, and after these next couple of weeks and Super Bowl, this season is officially done, then I’ll change it and that’s what I’m gonna see every single day.
But for me, it’s about getting with my team. How are we going to take the next step? And for us this offseason, the number one thing — our motto and our theme — is refinement and elevation. And that’s my main focus. I’ve got a great foundation. I do it every single day. It’s all year round. And we’re about refining all the tools that we have. Taking that next step, finding that one percent, finding different things to make me uncomfortable on a daily basis so I can improve and grow and go exactly where I know I can go if I do it the right way, and I know I’m going to. So I’m fired up, man. It’s gonna be a great offseason. I have a great team behind me and I’m just looking forward to taking another big step forward next year.
Last thing, a lot of people coming into Vegas this week. If you were to give a restaurant recommendation to somebody coming in to Vegas, what would you say is a must stop?
That’s tough. I mean, there’s so many good restaurants out here, it’s insane. But I would say Barry’s. Barry’s Steakhouse at Circa is the go-to. I think it might be the best place in town. And they got great people there, Barry and the whole crew are like family to me. So if you’re in old Vegas, definitely go to Barry’s at Circa.