Reggie McKenzie

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Carr, Raiders, Gillislee, Patriots

We learned earlier this week that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr wants to wrap up extension talks by the beginning of training camp. General manager Reggie McKenzie stated yesterday that he’d prefer to get a new contract wrapped up as soon as possible, and he expressed optimism that the two sides could come to an agreement.

“I feel good about it,” McKenzie said (via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com). “When both sides want to get it done, that’s a great first step. I’m looking forward to getting it done by then.”

Carr had another productive season in 2016, completing 63.8-percent of his passes for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Let’s take a look at some other notes from around the AFC…

  • Aldon Smith is still under contract with the Raiders, although the linebacker hasn’t taken the field in more than a year after having violated the league’s substance abuse policy. The NFL hasn’t made any move to reinstate the embattled player, and McKenzie isn’t expecting a resolution anytime soon. “Our thought process is on the draft and not considering Aldon at this point,” McKenzie said (via Bair). “He’s still on the suspension list, so we’re not considering him at this point.”
  • Last offseason, when the Patriots signed restricted free agent wideout Chris Hogan, the Bills immediately made it clear that they wouldn’t be matching the contract. However, Buffalo has taken their time deciding what to do with running back Mike Gillislee, who signed an offer sheet with New England earlier this week. ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss wonders if the delay could be an indication that the Bills are strongly considering matching the offer.
  • Following the death of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, legal analyst (and ESPN.com writer) Lester Munson writes that the organization may be required to pay his family “a significant sum of money.” The NFLPA says there are “three outstanding grievances” between Hernandez and the Patriots stemming from the team’s refusal to pay the player’s $3.25MM bonus following his initial arrest. “How these are resolved will determine” whether Hernandez’s family will ultimately receive any money from the Patriots.

AFC West Notes: McKenzie, Chargers, Sanchez

On the heels of his four-year extension, Reggie McKenzie will be ready to discuss extensions for Khalil Mack and Derek Carr after this season, when the 2014 draft choices become eligible to negotiate long-term contracts with the Raiders. The fifth-year Oakland GM said there has been a “constant dialogue” with the two standouts’ representatives, ones who profile as the best players the Raiders have had the opportunity to extend in many years.

The plan is to keep good players,” McKenzie told media, including Jerry McDonald of Ibabuzz.com. “Y’all could come beat me across the head if I let a Hall of Fame-type player leave this building. I’ll take [their agents] out to dinner any time I see him. We’ve fostered good relationships.”

McKenzie’s most recent offseason — one that featured the most notable Raiders free agent signings this decade in Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin and others — centered around free agency, but in 2017, Mack, Carr and Gabe Jackson become extension-eligible. Both Carr and Mack could soon be $20MM-per-year players, McDonald estimates.

Here’s more from the Raiders, along with the rest of the AFC West.

  • One of McKenzie’s free agent signings hasn’t worked out on the field, but the GM said the Raiders plan to stick by Aldon Smith despite his pattern of unavailability, Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com reports. McKenzie did describe the sixth-year player’s situation as an “uphill battle,” though. “We knew his situation,” McKenzie said. “It’s not like we had blinders on. Going into last year, we knew a suspension was probable. It’s going to be an uphill battle for him. He’s going to have to fight the good fight, but we’re not going to bail on him. He has to do his part.” Oakland has now signed the mercurial pass-rusher twice in two seasons and could see the second commitment fail to result in any Smith playing time this season. The former 49ers All-Pro checked himself into rehab earlier this week.
  • McKenzie’s decision to cut bait on disappointing former first-round picks Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McClain, while absorbing a $13.7MM dead-money hit upon releasing Richard Seymour, helped the Raiders’ rebuild in 2013, Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News writes. Those releases comprised part of the reason the Raiders held so much cap space the past two offseasons.
  • The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Chargers‘ downtown stadium initiative, Roger Showley of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. However, the backing might not mean too much since the measure, as of now, needs a two-thirds majority to pass in November.
  • That prospect remains a long-odds proposition, Union-Tribune’s Logan Jenkins points out. Jenkins doesn’t envision the measure passing at 50%. The California Supreme Court’s recent decision to review an appellate court’s ruling requires the measure to receive a two-thirds majority to pass. That 66.6% number is not finalized, however. Jenkins adds that the Chargers’ preferred downtown stadium not being likely to pass opens the door to a compromise in the form of a renovated Qualcomm Stadium. While the team’s efforts are being put into moving downtown, the Chargers will have options of becoming the Rams’ tenants in Los Angeles or making it work at their current Mission Valley site. Jenkins writes the latter choice would work out best for the Chargers’ standing in the community, staying in San Diego and not forcing what seems to be a largely unwanted downtown measure on taxpayers. A move to L.A. could decimate their fanbase as well, with the Rams having already set up shop there and the Chargers having essentially no footprint in the city.
  • Eric Fisher‘s contract extension — one that tacks on four years and $48MM to the left tackle’s deal — doubles as a huge leap of faith by the Chiefs, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com writes. Teicher points out the 6-foot-7 blocker from mid-major Central Michigan has been even more of a project than the franchise thought he’d be and that the team is rewarding Fisher for future performance as opposed to the modest production he’s shown.
  • Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian split first-team reps at Broncos practice Saturday, although the veteran’s command in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage is noticeable, Troy Renck of TheDenverChannel.com reports. Paxton Lynch took reps with the third team, per Renck.

Raiders Extend GM Reggie McKenzie

The Raiders have signed general manager Reggie McKenzie to a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the end of the 2021 draft, owner Mark Davis announced Friday night. McKenzie is the third GM this week to receive a four-year extension, joining the Seahawks’ John Schneider and the Texans’ Rick Smith.Reggie McKenzie

“Reggie’s contract was up at the end of this year, and we felt was time to reward him for the job that he has done,” said Davis.

The 53-year-old McKenzie, who was an NFL linebacker (including a stint with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-88) before serving as the longtime director of player personnel in Green Bay, took the reins as Oakland’s GM in 2012. While McKenzie inherited a team that finished a respectable 8-8 the previous season, its cap situation was nightmarish and its first draft pick wasn’t until the third round, 95th overall. Thanks in part to those factors, and McKenzie’s ill-advised choice to hire Dennis Allen as the Raiders’ head coach, the club spiraled to 4-12 in the executive’s first season at the helm.

McKenzie then had a full complement of draft picks in 2013, though the 10-player class hasn’t produced any high-impact players aside from sixth-round running back Latavius Murray. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder debuted in 2014 and has combined for 1,490 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, also adding 58 receptions.

McKenzie’s drafts truly began bearing fruit in 2014 and 2015, with both classes coming after bottom-of-the-barrel seasons. The Raiders landed defensive end Khalil Mack, among the league’s premier players on either side of the ball, with the fifth selection in 2014 before grabbing quarterback Derek Carr (No. 36) and guard Gabe Jackson (No. 81) in the second and third rounds. Mack totaled a whopping 15 sacks, second only to Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, last season. Carr tossed 32 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and now looks like Oakland’s first true solution under center since the Rich Gannon era. Jackson, meanwhile, has started in 28 of 29 appearances and ranked 13th among 81 qualified guards at Pro Football Focus for his work in 2015.

McKenzie added to those three core players in last year’s draft, most notably with first-round receiver Amari Cooper (No. 4 overall). The ex-Alabama star hauled in 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, and it appears he and Carr will combine to form one of the league’s most threatening duos through the air for the foreseeable future.

With the help of those integral cogs – not to mention McKenzie’s second head coaching hire, Jack Del Rio, and pickups like cornerback David Amerson (waivers), receiver Michael Crabtree (free agency), punter Marquette King (undrafted free agency) and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (second round, 2015) – the McKenzie-built Raiders finally made progress in the win column last season. On the heels of a 7-9 showing, the Raiders’ best since 2011, McKenzie took advantage of a great cap situation and signed guard Kelechi Osemele, linebacker Bruce Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson to sizable deals in free agency. He also re-signed stalwart left tackle Donald Penn and picked up seven more players via the draft, with first-round safety Karl Joseph headlining the class.

Thanks to the mix of highly talented youth and established veterans McKenzie has acquired, the Raiders look as if they’ll soon break their lengthy run of futility. Oakland hasn’t posted a winning record in a season since 2002, when it won the AFC, and has gone 13 years without a playoff berth. Although the 18-46 mark the Raiders have produced under McKenzie suggests he didn’t merit an extension, the foundation he has put in place indicates otherwise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Browns, Titans, Steelers, Raiders

ESPN reports that Browns officials were told at this week’s owners meetings that the team will face “severe” discipline for violating an NFL policy. Cleveland will be punished for the actions of general manager Ray Farmer, who admitted to sending text messages (reportedly to members of the club’s sideline) during games last season. That violates the league’s electronic device policy, and it could cost the Browns in the form of fines or the loss of draft picks. The extent of the Browns’ punishment will be announced next week.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that the odds of the Steelers extending the contract of defensive end Cameron Heyward prior to the season are “100%.” Heyward will make just under $7MM in 2015, the last year of his deal, and could hit free agency in 2016. The four-year veteran finished last season with a career-high 7.5 sacks, giving him 15 since entering the league in 2011. The former first-round pick has appeared in all 64 of Pittsburgh’s regular-season games since he joined the club, and has finished in the top 20 of Pro Football Focus’ ranking system (subscription required) for 3-4 defensive ends three straight years.
  • Linebacker James Harrison seems to regard his recent decision to re-sign with the Steelers as bittersweet. The Titans were also vying for Harrison’s services, and choosing Pittsburgh over Tennessee means he won’t get to continue working under defensive guru Dick LeBeau. The 77-year-old left the Steelers after 11 seasons and joined the Titans’ staff in February. “You don’t want to let (coach LeBeau) down, you want to be loyal to him to a fault,” Harrison said on the “Ike Taylor Show,” according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “It came down to I had to take a step back and look at it and it was a business. Both offers being the same, it wasn’t a good business move to go to Tennessee because I would have to uproot everything and I already had everything in Pittsburgh combined with the fact my legacy is in Pittsburgh.”
  • Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie isn’t content with his team’s offensive line. “I don’t have enough offensive linemen on the roster. I want to bring some good ones in,” McKenzie said, according to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. The Raiders’ biggest O-line need is at right guard, an area they could address in the upcoming draft. “Right guard is going to be a competitive situation in camp,” said new head coach Jack Del Rio.