Great read, I'm so excited with our future, and he's the perfect man to captain the ship
The Raider Way? With Davis gone, it's now The McKenzie Way in Oakland - NFL - CBSSports.com News, Rumors, Scores, Stats, Fantasy
The Raider Way? With Davis gone, it's now The McKenzie Way in Oakland
By Len Pasquarelli | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
It was probably more symbolic than anything else but, as he hustled through the lobby of the posh Palm Beach, Fla., hotel where the NFL convened its annual meeting six weeks ago, on his way to a session for top executives from all 32 franchises, Reggie McKenzie wore a tweed sports coat and green slacks.
No sign of a silver-and-black running suit, or a white and black one, to be found. No gaudy jewelry around his neck or ostentatious championship ring on his finger. No nasally, caricature-ish Brooklyn-born accent.
The transition from the late Al Davis, who proudly wore some variation of the franchise's colors wherever he went in public, isn't quite complete yet seven months after his death. But McKenzie, 49, ostensibly the Oakland Raiders' first general manager, and the first football executive of GM-level since Bruce Allen exited the club after the 2003 season, certainly appears to be his own man.
And not just in his sartorial choices or his dialect, either.
Hired in early January after a long tenure as the Green Bay director of football operations, highly recommended to new owner Mark Davis by a trio of onetime NFL executives and coaches with undeniable Raiders' ties, McKenzie is anything but overt about the change. He is, conspicuously, mindful of the lineage Davis established with the franchise. But there are indications, as well, that, for Oakland, it won't exactly be business as usual moving forward.
"We're going to do things the way we're [accustomed] to doing them," McKenzie said. "We'll cover all the bases, be very thorough, and make the kinds of decisions that are in the team's best interest."
At the time, McKenzie, who spent the first four of his six NFL seasons with the Raiders, was specifically addressing the then-upcoming draft. He could have been speaking, though, of the Raiders' football operation in general.
A team that hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 2002, Oakland is in need of a makeover. That isn't meant to be an indictment of the iconic Davis, who might never have tinkered with the operation, but simply the truth. Only two other franchises, Buffalo and Cleveland, have missed the playoffs every year since the Raiders last appeared in the postseason. Time, indeed, for an overhaul, and the untimely death of Davis, ironically, provided an excuse for updating the operation.
There's still going to be the Raiders' trademark "commitment to excellence," of course. But the pride and poise so often trumpeted by Davis, in a nod to the franchise's past greatness, has become a punchline. It's time for the Raiders to start slugging back, even if it might take a while to deliver a wallop.
"[McKenzie} was absolutely the right guy," said longtime NFL executive Ken Herock, whose Raiders roots run deep, who championed McKenzie for the position, and whose son, Shaun, was named last week as the team's college scouting director. "He knows football talent and he has a plan. He'll get it right."
So far, "getting it right" has in part included getting rid of many of the longtime Oakland employees of the past generation. Although coach Hue Jackson was with the club for only one season, McKenzie wanted his own man in place, and hired Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to run the team on the field. Allen, in his first head coaching job, had no previous ties to the Raiders, a notable break from Davis' tradition of hiring from within the franchise's "family."
More recently, McKenzie retooled the personnel department, dismissing longtime top executive Jon Kingdon and Bruce Kebric, moves that coincided with Kent McCloughan's retirement.
"I had talked to Al Davis when I turned 65," said McCloughan, who first joined the organization in the mid-1960s as a standout cornerback, "and he said, 'Listen, young man: You're not quitting before I do.' I owe him a lot. He was so nice to my family and me. We had some great years, including when Ron Wolf was with us. We won a lot of games. I had the opportunity to work 47 years with one team. I enjoyed it so much. I thought Al Davis was an outstanding person and boss. I enjoyed the scouting department, the coaches and players I had the opportunity to work with, and I'll always be a Raider. I'm going out about as good as a person can go out. You couldn't have written a better story for me. ... I wish Reggie and the entire organization the best."
McKenzie brought in Herock, McKenzie's own twin brother, Raleigh, and still hopes to pry close friend and New York college director Joey Clinkscales from the Jets. (Meanwhile, while Wolf's son Eliot, a scout with the Packers, was promoted to McKenzie's old seat in Green Bay.)
"He's going to want people like himself, who can tell him who the players are and who they aren't," said Ron Wolf, who also boosted McKenzie's candidacy. "There's always going to be recognition of what the team is about, what it's been. But there's also going to be change. There already has been."
For sure, in his first year of presiding over the Oakland draft, McKenzie didn't exactly go for flashy players, instead preferring serviceable ones. Because of trades engineered by his predecessors, McKenzie didn't own a choice until the third round, and his first two picks were actually compensatory slots, awarded by the league at the NFL meetings.
Still, the initial choice of the McKenzie Era wasn't a fleet, deep-threat wide receiver, or the cornerback with the fastest 40-yard time at the combine. Davis had grown obsessed with speed and raw athleticism, perhaps to a fault. Instead, McKenzie's top pick was offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom of Utah, a fairly nondescript prospect by recent Oakland standards. Of the club's six draft selections, just one, Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner (fifth round), plays a "skill position" spot.
Perhaps the only flashback from the past is that all but one of the six Oakland picks had played basketball in high school, a reminder that McKenzie, even while strongly stressing character still emphasizes all-around athleticism.
"There's a little bit of a difference [with McKenzie]," one Oakland veteran said last week.
And it's not just about McKenzie's fashion choices, either.
Great read, I'm so excited with our future, and he's the perfect man to captain the ship
Great read... I look for great things from this franchise.
"You can't Appoint, Hire, or Declare Leadership" ~ Sonny Barger
"Al Davis thought all owners were dilettantes with a new toy. He said to me many times through the years that owners are often the problem with their franchises, that too many of them think they can run things when they cannot, and the teams that succeed are the ones where the owner hires the best people he can and turns the game over to them."
A commitment to the future in Oakland - AFC West Blog - ESPN
If anyone still hasn’t grasped that the Oakland Raiders are a changed organization, all they have to do is watch Juron Criner run routes during this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
A player with potential, Criner has speed in the 4.7-second range. He is not the burner former owner Al Davis craved, and if Davis were still alive Criner would likely not be in Oakland today.
The Autumn Wind is still a Raider, but it blows on a different course.
When Davis died at age 82 on Oct. 8, it was clear that the Raiders were going to embark upon a major transition period. Davis was the Raiders’ decision-maker for nearly 50 years, even into his ailing final days. That just doesn’t happen in the NFL anymore. Can you imagine George Halas still running the Bears, or Vince Lombardi still on the sideline in Green Bay?
While we anticipated change, the modification since the 2011 season ended in Oakland has been swift, dramatic and wildly intriguing. The Raiders are suddenly moving on from the staunchly independent ways of Davis and emerging as a modern outfit with youthful spirit and ideas.
“I think the biggest challenge is that because the leadership has been the way it’s been done for so long, people are used to doing things one way,” new Oakland head coach Dennis Allen said earlier this offseason. “I think the biggest challenge is just getting people within the organization to open up the thought process to doing things another way. There are different ways to do things in this league. I think everyone within the organization has been open and receptive to conforming to the way (new general manager) Reggie (McKenzie) and I are trying to do things.”
Though Davis was a legend, his ways didn’t always work in today's NFL. The Raiders’ last Super Bowl title came nearly 30 years ago and Oakland hasn't had a winning season in 10 years. Its nine-year playoff drought is tied for the second-longest in the NFL.
If there has been an MVP in Oakland since Davis’ death, it has to be his son, Mark. While his father ran the team, the affable younger Davis chose to ride in the background. Once he took over as the leader of the Raiders, Mark continued that approach.
Davis -- who was being advised some of his father’s top lieutenants in John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock --- listened to advice and hired Green Bay personnel man Reggie McKenzie as general manager shortly after the end of last season. Mark Davis deserves credit for respecting his advisors' recommendations (McKenzie has a strong ties to Wolf and Herock) and for allowing McKenzie to run the team once he was hired.
McKenzie’s task is a tough one and it will take time. But thus far, McKenzie -- a former Raiders linebacker -- has put his head down and dug in. The Raiders didn’t hire an Al Davis clone in McKenzie. The new GM is doing things his way.
McKenzie hired Allen, then Denver’s defensive coordinator, as head coach. The last defensive-minded head coach in Oakland was Madden -- who was hired in 1969. McKenzie fired longtime scouts and revamped the team’s draft preparation, focusing on modernizing the process. He has reportedly already hired a new college scouting director, former Green Bay colleague Shaun Herock, and has added former Jets' executive Joey Clinkscale to the front office. More scouts are likely on the way in.
McKenzie cut several players to whom Davis gave supersized contracts in his final years -- part of what should be a new emphasis on salary-cap management under McKenzie. The Raiders also added players in free agency and in the draft who fit Allen's schemes, rather than a rigid scouting plan. Speed and measurables are no longer as important as when Al Davis was running the team.
On the first day of the Raiders’ offseason program, newly signed linebacker Philip Wheeler made some eye-opening comments.
“I actually heard some of the coaches saying we’re not just big and fast anymore,” Wheeler said. “We’re going to be big, fast and we’re going work harder and have good football players. The (Raiders) were always bigger, faster and stronger than everybody. But the awareness of the game, some of it was down or whatever. I feel like Mr. McKenzie brought in a lot of players in who actually know how to play the game and aren’t just faster than everybody. We have actual football players here now.”
Change in Oakland haven't stopped with the players. It has flowed throughout the organization in the past few months, including the hiring of a new public-relations director with whom McKenzie has a history. The Raiders have become more accessible and appear to be willing to be more transparent than under the Al Davis regime.
It’s a new NFL world and McKenzie is introducing his team to it. Allen said the plan is to meld the past and the future in Oakland.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for all of us that are involved,” Allen said. “To take over such a historic program, be a part of that tradition there with the Raiders, is obviously exciting for all of us. We’re excited about the opportunity to put our stamp on the program.
“I think with every great program in the National Football League, I think you really have to respect the history and tradition within the organization. The Oakland Raiders. It’s one of the most storied franchises in all of sport, not just the NFL. We want to embrace those, embrace the past, and the history of the organization. But yet, we want to do it our way. Reggie and I are going to work together to do it the way we want to do it, and put the best team out on the field we can put out there.”
Much of the transformation will be based on bringing stability to the franchise. The past three head coaches -- Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson -- all created distractions for themselves and for the team. Throughout the years, instability caused many former Oakland players to be relieved when they became former Oakland players.
“There’s definitely a difference,” former Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (whom McKenzie released) told reporters in Kansas City after he signed with the Chiefs this offseason. “You know what? I think there’s a little more stability here to say the least.”
Still, Allen made it clear the building process in Oakland will involve every facet of the organization.
“Our deal is, we want to foster an organization that’s based on trust, honesty, integrity, doing the right things, doing it the right way,” Allen said. “Those are things that both Reggie and I believe in. That’s the way we’re going to run that organization. We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to do things in a first-class manner. We’re going to build a team that’s going to be tough, smart, disciplined. Just like I talked about doing the right things within the organization, that’s the way we’re going to do it as a team.”
Call it new shades of Silver and Black.
Great article, I look forward to a new era of Raider football.
I can see why anyone would be optimistic. Saying he's perfect? perfect for the job? He hasn't done jack yet. I prefer results instead of hype and I'll wait for the results before praising anything in life. There are so many perfect people out there for a lot of things and at the end of the day they all suck worse then what was there before.
50-50 chance everyone will be calling for Allen and RM's jobs by the end of the second year.
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