The New Nation
By: Jordan Ramirez
“I’m here. I’m a walking testimony of coming here in the first year and having an opportunity to make something great.”
No, that wasn’t Reggie McKenzie in his opening press conference as general manager of the Oakland Raiders. Rather those were the words of now fired Hue Jackson, then up and coming, offensive mastermind in his opening press conference. Jackson was hired as the man to bring this once proud franchise from NFL slums to Super Bowl contender. But, as with many Raiders coaches, the excitement and anticipation for the upcoming years would be short-lived as Jackson was fired after just one year.
This time it’s different.
Instead of the usual Al Davis insanity that comes with each coaching firing (or as the Raiders would put it “non-renewal of said contract”); projectors, scowling, bad-mouthing, lawsuits, infidelity and irrationality, this firing was representative of not just a new head coach but the transfer of invaluable power.
For as long as anyone can remember Al Davis has had control of the franchise. Davis had his moments, as three Lombardi trophies would indicate, but for the better part of this past decade Al was synonymous with illogicality and overly disheartening pride. Sadly, it came to the point where some fans were clamoring for the passing of Al in hopes they can achieve greatness once again. It was that bad in Raider Nation.
When Al Davis did actually pass away this past season, the reigns were handed to his son, Mark, who was now the leader of a $761 million business. Would Mark sell the team? Would he move them back to LA? Would he finally hire a GM? Two of these questions have been answered. How these answers turn into successful solutions has yet to be seen.
Reggie McKenzie, former Director of Football Operations for the Green Bay Packers, was officially hired last week as the Raiders general manager. A well respected mind within NFL circles, McKenzie brings years of playing experience, talent evaluation and stability to a franchise needing all that and more. McKenzie was a student of the Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf regime in Green Bay, one of the best front office regimes in the NFL.
“Reggie’s a tremendous evaluator,” Ron Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shortly after the hire. “He can tell you who can play and who can’t play. That’s what it’s all about. Some can write reports but can’t tell you who can play. Whatever that is, he has that. He has a feel.”
This “feel” that Wolf speaks of will be tested early and often. McKenzie is assuming a team with very little draft picks, no head coach, a new owner, no set coaching staff, free agents, stadium questions and a tarnished reputation. McKenzie’s first task, a head coach, is already being calculated. Green Bay’s assistant/linebackers coach Winston Moss is the rumored front runner for the job as McKenzie has made it clear that he wants “his guy” as his first hire. Whether that’s a coach off his former Green Bay staff, former Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles, Broncos coordinators Mike McCoy and Dennis Allen or New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr is yet to be known. What is known: McKenzie’s hire and the subsequent hires following signify a tremendous shift from front office ineptitude to consistent, adequate decision making.
Mark Davis made it clear in the opening press conference that this is McKenzie’s show: “Reggie is going to be making the decisions and that’s where it should be,” Davis said. “There will be other things that I need to do within the organization and I will be able to focus on those now, which I was taken away for a while.” Those “other things” Davis mentioned includes new stadium possibilities, which range from Los Angeles to sharing the Santa Clara stadium with the San Francisco 49ers.
Reggie McKenzie was the first and only interview Mark Davis held for the GM position. Some call Mark Davis short-sided for his “one and done” interview process. I say it’s a common Davis trait in the gene pool: you want something you go and get it, no questions asked. By only interviewing McKenzie, Mark Davis showed the world that whether he likes it or not, he’s the product of Al Davis. Al always showed a willingness to do what he considered to be the best move for the organization. While Mark Davis showed us this very trait in the process of hiring a GM, he isn’t Al and won’t be the overbearing figure that Al was either.
“I would say I am an observer. I like to observe things and see how things are going and then actually act on those types of things that I see,” Mark said. “I’m not the type of person who is going to make a decision right away on certain things.”
A very “I’m not my father!” proclamation by the son now turned owner.
It wasn’t that Al didn’t observe and take his time on decisions; it was the actual decisions that were the problem. Luckily, Mark made is known early that it is Reggie McKenzie’s organization in terms of personnel decisions, with the new ring bearer a curiously interested bystander. Raiders fans aren’t used to any of this. Al was the Raiders. We knew it, the players knew it, the coaches knew it, Alameda knew it and Mark knew it. Now, with Mark as owner, there is actual structure in place. The Raiders will soon resemble the prototypical NFL franchise: owner, GM, head coach.
It’s not enough for Al to leave us and a GM to be hired however. McKenzie must bring his championship pedigree to Oakland and make smart, concise, well calculated decisions in order to bring the Raiders to its former glory atop the NFL pedestal. McKenzie has the tools to be a successful NFL GM and bring this much needed culture change to the Raider Nation. The change has just begun. In the coming days, weeks, months and years we will see how much it has really changed.
The Raiders are no longer Al Davis’ Raiders. This change is long overdue. McKenzie has been hailed by the right people and said all the right things. Being praised is one thing; acting on them is entirely different. Let’s see what the new GM of the Raiders (still sounds awkward) has in store for the Nation. The Autumn Wind has been a mere breeze for so long. Expect a storm very soon.
Share This Article
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.