Reggie McKenzie

2018 Season Likely To Be Reggie McKenzie’s Last With Raiders

When Jon Gruden took over as coach of the Oakland Raiders, the writing was on the wall for GM Reggie McKenzie. Now there’s more confirmation the two sides will be heading for a split, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports there is virtually no chance McKenzie is back in 2019.

Sources told La Canfora it’s a “near certainty” that there are “new decision-makers in place in Oakland well before the 2019 draft.” The final nail in the coffin appeared to be the decision to trade away Khalil Mack. Comments made by both Gruden and McKenzie following the trade made clear that it was Gruden’s imperative to deal the defensive end.

Gruden has been remaking the team in his vision ever since he became coach, and while nothing has been formally announced, it’s been clear for a while that McKenzie’s power has been reduced. Gruden will likely begin to bring in his own front office people shortly after the season ends.

It will be a critical and potentially era-defining offseason for Gruden in 2019. He’ll be doing it essentially all on his own and will receive all the credit, and the blame, for whatever transpires. What he does with the picks acquired in the Mack trade will determine how the trade, and his decision making, are viewed down the line. McKenzie, a fairly well respected executive, should land on his feet with another organization sooner rather than later after he’s eventually cut loose.

Raiders GM Discusses Khalil Mack Trade

Last weekend, the Raiders were the talk of the NFL after sending star linebacker Khalil Mack to the Bears. While owner Mark Davis and head coach Jon Gruden were the two pushing for the trade, it’s uncertain how much general manager Reggie McKenzie had to do with the deal.

Gruden clearly has the ear of his owner, emphasized by the organization dealing off many of McKenzie’s draft picks. There have been rumblings that the Raiders could be preparing to part ways with the general manager, although Gruden was clear it was an organizational decision to trade off Mack.

For what it’s worth, McKenzie didn’t sound like he was entirely on board with a Mack deal. In an interview with Scott Bair of NBC Sports BayArea, the general manager provided some insight into the trade. The whole interview is worth reading, and we’ve collected some of the notable soundbites below:

On how he was handling the entire ordeal prior to the trade:

“My whole thought process was to get Khalil (signed). It was at the end, in the final hour, that it just hit. It hit hard and heavy. It was not a plan to trade him at all.”

On negotiations with Mack, who ended up signing a six-year, $141MM ($90MM guaranteed) deal after being dealt to Chicago:

“There were some things that weren’t meshing between the two proposals. That made it hard to go into details. We were trying to figure out ways to get it done, but it wasn’t going to look like what Khalil wanted.”

On whether quarterback Derek Carr‘s five-year, $125MM extension impacted negotiations with Mack:

“We knew we had two great players in that [2014] draft a long time ago. We knew this thing was coming. We were trying to plan for this. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. That scenario did not weight heavily in our decisions.”

On the perception that the organization is unwilling to pay their own players:

“We will pay top dollar. We couldn’t get around giving Khalil what he wanted. We will pay top dollar to top players. We just could not get it worked out with Khalil. When it seemed like it was going that way, we decided to make a move with the trade. We will be able attract players. …We’ll find a way to continue to play good football. We’re not worried about the outside perception of free agency. We will get free agents in here when its time to do that and we will keep our own. Sometimes you can’t keep them all. That’s just the way it goes.”

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West Rumors: Raiders, Bosa, Chiefs, Griffin

With Jon Gruden and Mark Davis leading the charge to trade Khalil MackReggie McKenzie‘s premier draft choice — it could signal a separation of the Raiders‘ power structure soon. Davis gave Gruden power via the 10-year, $100MM contract, but McKenzie’s remained in his GM role. That could change soon, with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports expecting the Raiders to part ways with McKenzie and bring in one or two younger evaluators to work under Gruden as the franchise transitions to Las Vegas. Some around the league didn’t expect Gruden and McKenzie to coexist for long, and the Raiders making one of modern NFL history’s biggest trades could further drive the decision-makers apart. Gruden has also expressed doubt about McKenzie’s recent draft classes, and the transactions involving those players signal the new coach’s dissatisfaction with the classes.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions:

  • Mack’s contract sets up Joey Bosa as the player best-positioned to eclipse it, Joel Corry of CBS Sports said (via Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune). Bosa’s floor will be Mack’s $23.5MM-AAV Bears deal, per Corry, who adds he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers‘ young pass rusher sign for $25MM per year and shoot for $100MM guaranteed. The Chargers have Bosa under team control through 2020 via the fifth-year option, and as teams showed with the 2014 first-round crop, procuring an extension with two years left on a rookie contract is difficult. Todd Gurley provided a recent exception, however. Bosa, 23, becomes extension-eligible after this season and will be much younger than Mack or Donald was when they became eligible. The Bolts also have Philip Rivers signed through 2019, and the veteran quarterback has not indicated he’s considering near-future retirement. So, the Chargers might have to build for the prospect of having two $20MM-per-year players on a payroll. No team’s cap sheet currently features that.
  • Shaquem Griffin will make a Week 1 start. The inspirational Seahawks fifth-round rookie will start in place of K.J. Wright against the Broncos this week, Pete Carroll said. Wright underwent recent knee surgery and has a best-case scenario of being ready by Week 2.
  • Despite being away from the Chiefs all offseason, Ron Parker has multiple avenues back into the starting lineup in time for Week 1. Eric Berry is questionable to face the Bolts with a heel injury, and Andy Reid said Berry’s longtime wingman could start regardless of the All-Pro’s status (Twitter link via the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor). Parker’s started all but one Chiefs game for the past four seasons but was released in March for cap concerns. He’s now back for the league minimum, per OverTheCap. The Chiefs lost projected starter Daniel Sorensen to an August injury; he’s currently on IR.

Latest On Raiders’ Khalil Mack Decision

Addressing the Khalil Mack trade for the first time, Jon Gruden said the Raiders’ salary cap situation indeed played into the choice to ship the team’s best player to Chicago. Particularly, Derek Carr‘s contract played a role.

While Gruden said (via the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken, on Twitter) he was not involved in the daily communications between Mack’s agent and the team, he did indicate Carr’s $25MM-AAV contract — one the quarterback signed in hopes of leaving his team enough money to take care of teammates’ deals down the road — made it difficult to complete a Mack extension. And the Raiders weren’t particularly close on terms with their former superstar defender.

The Bears gave Mack a six-year, $141MM contract with $90MM in guarantees — raising the bar for defenders after Aaron Donald did so previously. Gruden confirmed (per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area, on Twitter) the Raiders made an offer, and it was “not anywhere close” to the terms Mack received from the Bears.

Gruden said the 27-year-old phenom was part of why he accepted Mark Davis‘ offer to return to coach the Raiders, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter), but added the $90MM in guarantees was something the Raiders “could not do.” Rumors about the Raiders’ wherewithal to authorize such a guarantee surfaced late in the offseason, but nothing concrete emerged about Davis’ ability to construct a Mack extension. But it’s clear the Raiders were not willing to venture into the financial neighborhood the Bears were.

As for pulling the trigger on a trade now, when Mack was attached to a $13MM-plus fifth-year option and could have been franchise-tagged in the future, Gruden said he did not believe Mack was going to report and it was “time to move on.” Additionally, the Bears’ “unique” offer prompted the Raiders to make the deal, with the 55-year-old head coach adding there was no guarantee a proposal including two first-round picks would’ve been on the table in 2019 (Twitter links via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur).

The Raiders received interest from several teams on the Mack front — the Jets, 49ers and Browns are the known suitors who didn’t match the Bears’ haul — and ended up giving the Bears a second-round pick in the deal. Gruden said, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link), he was not part of the discussion that sent a future Day 2 pick to the Bears.

With Gruden having cut or traded several of Reggie McKenzie‘s recent draft picks in recent weeks, and having criticized the 2015-17 classes during training camp — and on Sunday (Twitter link via Gehlken) — some understandable discord may be taking place in Oakland. Some around the NFL did not expect the Gruden-McKenzie partnership, one that featured Gruden siphoning much of the GM’s power, to last, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. However, Gruden said the Raiders came to this Mack decision “as an organization,” per Gehlken (on Twitter).

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Mark Davis Addresses New Raiders Power Structure

This offseason’s provided the first taste of Jon Gruden taking some of Reggie McKenzie’s power within the Raiders’ organization. Mark Davis clarified the setup, confirming McKenzie won’t have as much responsibility as he once did.

In authorizing a 10-year contract for Gruden, Davis has confirmed the now-two-time Raiders head coach’s voice is the most important in the building.

They have roles to play. At this point in time, the role Reggie plays now is a little different than the role he played with Jack (Del Rio), a little different than his role working with Dennis (Allen),” Davis said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“It evolves. (McKenzie) has built the team to where we are now, and we’re in pretty good shape with the cap and everything else. Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years. His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got.”

Davis added that McKenzie maintains control of Oakland’s salary cap. But Gruden appears to have a much bigger say about free agency targets than his McKenzie-era predecessors did. The Raiders have added several veterans who are north of 30 — like Jordy Nelson, Leon Hall, Dwayne Harris, Breno Giacomini and Shareece Wright — and others non-fifth-year UFAs (Doug Martin, Tahir Whitehead, Emmanuel Lamur, Marcus Gilchrist).

Jon’s the head coach and he’s going to be here a while, so it’s important that he gets the players he wants and builds a team he wants to build,” Davis said. “Reggie is there with his staff to find the players, and also to keep the (salary) cap and everything else in order.”

McKenzie constructed a roster that ended the Raiders’ lengthy playoff drought, with a 12-4 2016 showing, but that group underwhelmed last season and regressed to a six-win outfit.

Davis said he won’t meddle often in the personnel side and confirmed his goal of bringing Gruden back to Oakland took more than five years to come to fruition.

I’m done with the football side,” Davis said. “I got Reggie in place early. That was huge. But it was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach. I wanted him way back then, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I continually kept after Jon to see if he was interested. If he decided to come back, I hoped it would be with the Raiders. This year, he finally came on board.

That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. Jon will be our coach for the next 10 years, or until he gets tired of me. With him and Reggie on the football side of the building, and (director of football administration) Tom Delaney of course, they really do a great job. From the football side, I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

Gruden, GM Share Raiders Roster Control

Earlier this month, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie turned down an opportunity to interview for the Packers’ GM vacancy. That was our first indication that McKenzie would maintain at least some control over Oakland’s 53-man roster, despite the arrival of Jon Gruden as head coach. Reggie McKenzie (vertical)

At Tuesday’s introductory press conference for the new (/old) head coach, Gruden confirmed that the two will “work together” to make roster decisions. McKenzie, meanwhile, was upbeat about the new arrangement.

Since taking over as Raiders GM in 2012, the team has gone a combined 36-60, including three seasons with four victories or less. But, in 2016, the team turned a corner and made the playoffs with a 12-4 record. The Raiders fell short this year, but they still wanted to keep the 2016 NFL Executive of the Year in the fold.

McKenzie and Gruden both say they’re excited to collaborate on building the team, but it will be interesting to see how well the two men will handle roster disagreements. McKenzie has been at the helm for five years, but one has to wonder if the $100MM man will have the upper hand on most matters.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reggie McKenzie Declined Opportunity To Interview For Packers GM Gig

We heard earlier this morning that the Packers request to interview Seahawks general manager John Schneider was denied. Well, it sounds like the Seattle executive wasn’t the only big-name option that Green Bay was targeting. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Packers requested permission to interview Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie for their vacancy. McKenzie declined the request and plans on sticking around as Jon Gruden‘s GM in Oakland. Yesterday, ESPN.com’s Jim Trotter tweeted similar news.

Reggie McKenzieFollowing an eight-year playing career, McKenzie actually got his first NFL front office gig with the Packers. After starting as a scout, McKenzie eventually worked his way up to the position of director of football operations. He later moved on to Oakland, where he took the general manager job in 2012. Since then, McKenzie has played a role in the team’s underwhelming 36-60 record, including three seasons with four wins or less. However, the Raiders did make the playoffs with a 12-4 record in 2016, earning McKenzie 2016 NFL Executive of the Year honors.

Yesterday, the Raiders signed Gruden to a massive 10-year, $100MM deal to become their next head coach. Subsequent reports indicated that McKenzie could lose some power in the organization, although he’ll retain the role of general manager. The team plans on adding an EVP of Football Operations to oversee personnel, and they’ve also been targeting some young executives from around the league.

The Packers interviewed director of football operations Eliot Wolf earlier this week, and they’ve also spoken to VP of football administration Russ Ball and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst. Former Bills GM Doug Whaley is expected to be the first external candidate to interview for the gig later today. The Packers were previously rejected from interviewing Vikings executive George Paton. The team has been seeking a new general manager since Ted Thompsonwas removed from the role earlier this week.

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Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie To Lose Power In Organization?

The ripple effect of Jon Gruden‘s arrival will be felt throughout the Raiders organization. The question is – will it affect the scope of GM Reggie McKenzie‘s power? We have some conflicting word on that front. Reggie McKenzie

The Raiders will keep Reggie McKenzie as GM but will be hiring an EVP of Football Operations to oversee personnel, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. He adds that the team could also hire a young executive. It’s possible that the young exec in question is Brian Heimerdinger, who Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link) recently suggested as a Gruden target. Heimerdinger remains under contract with the Jets, so the Raiders will have to work something out with Gang Green if they want to bring him on board.

Not everyone is convinced that McKenzie’s role will be reduced. Jim Trotter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that McKenzie turned down an opportunity to interview with the Packers, a possible indication that he’ll still maintain some control over the 53-man roster in Oakland.

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Coach Rumors: Raiders, Olson, Cards, Fins

If the Raiders (as expected) hire ESPN commentator Jon Gruden as their next head coach, they are expected to lure Rams quarterbacks coach Greg Olson to be their new offensive coordinator, tweets Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Marvez reported yesterday that Olson might be a candidate to join Gruden in Oakland, but now it sounds as though an Olson addition will be a foregone conclusion. Olson, 54, has served as the Raiders’ offensive play-caller before (2013-14), and has also been an OC at several other stops, including Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville, but Gruden is expected to run his own offense once he arrives in Oakland.

Here’s more on the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • The Raiders‘ apparent decision to bring in Gruden could have wide-ranging implications for the club’s coaching staff and front office, but general manager Reggie McKenzie is likely to stay in place for at least more season even if Gruden is hired, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. McKenzie, who is signed through the 2021 draft, may be in danger of losing final authority on personnel decisions, but Gruden is unlikely to take on a GM-type role in Oakland, per Florio. However, if the Raiders do hand over free agent and draft control to Gruden, McKenzie might be able to leave on his own, citing a breach of contract.
  • Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak will indeed interview for the vacant Cardinals head coaching position, and the meeting will take place this weekend, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Arizona asked for permission to interview Munchak earlier this week, and that request has apparently been granted. Munchak has been a head coach before, as he posted a 22-26 record in three seasons with the Titans. He’s the eighth candidate to be linked to the Cardinals’ search.
  • Former Broncos assistant head coach/running backs Eric Studesville will have to wait for his interview with the Giants, as weather-related concerns have forced the summit to next week, per Dan Duggan of NJ.com (Twitter link). Studesville, who had been employed in Denver since 2010, was fired earlier this week. While he’s never been a head coach, the 50-year-old Studesville did serve as an interim HC during the 2010 campaign.
  • The Dolphins have hired a familiar face as their new offensive line coach, as they’ve agreed to terms with Jeremiah Washburn to take over the job, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Washburn served as an assistant OL coach in Miami in 2016 before accepting a promotion in Chicago. He’ll now replace staffer Dave DeGuglielmo, who was hired to replace Chris Foerster after the latter was caught using drugs on video.
  • Gruden and the Raiders are expected to target Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown for the same role in Oakland, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Brown, 48, is now a coaching free agent, as his contract in Dallas has expired. The Cowboys made several coaching changes earlier this week, but there’s no word as to whether they’ll pursue Brown again.

Bowman Hoping For Raiders Return in 2018

In Week 12 vs. Denver, linebacker NaVorro Bowman ended the Raiders’ NFL-record 10-plus-game streak without an interception. The veteran hopes he’ll make more big plays with the team for the foreseeable future and said he would like to return to the team in 2018, reports NBC Sports’ Scott BairNavorro bowman (vertical)

Since being released by San Francisco earlier in the season, Bowman has emerged as a pivotal player on Oakland’s defense and has helped the team secure three wins in his first five games. The strong play of late has helped the team keep its playoff hopes alive in the wide-open AFC West.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t sign me back. I’d love to stay. I like the area. I like the team and the organization. Hopefully we can make it happen,” Bowman said.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t dismiss the idea. “Needless to say, his experience, and the way he plays…I’m talking about from an instincts and savvy standpoint, anytime you come two years off an injury, it’s always going to be better than the next year, so that’s not going to be a deterrent, but he can still play.”

It makes sense that Bowman would like to stay with the team. Bowman broke into the league in 2010 with the Niners and has been in the Bay Area ever since. Bowman earned three consecutive First Team All-Pro selections with San Francisco before suffering an Achilles injury early in 2016. After being released, he quickly signed with the Raiders to stay in the area with a team competing for a playoff spot.

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