Reggie McKenzie

Latest On Raiders, Reggie McKenzie

On Monday afternoon, the Raiders released a statement to confirm the firing of longtime GM Reggie McKenzie.

We are grateful for everything Reggie has done for this organization as a player, executive and member of the Raider family,” the statement read. “The Raiders will immediately begin a search for a new front office executive.”

Curiously, the statement indicates that the Raiders will look “for a new front office executive,” which may mean that the club will not give anyone the title of GM for 2019.

Here’s the latest out of Oakland:

  • Those in the building say that Gruden actually liked McKenzie, even as Gruden picked apart the roster that he built, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets. Things weren’t outwardly contentious between the two men, Breer hears, and he notes that McKenzie’s decision to set high asking prices for Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper actually paid off. Before each deal, there was speculation that McKenzie was looking to sandbag the efforts, but that does not appear to be the case in retrospect.
  • The Raiders may view executives such as Jimmy Raye III, Mark Dominik, and Chris Polian as candidates to become the new GM or chief of personnel, according to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). And, despite previous rumors linking Redskins exec Bruce Allen to the post, Pelissero hears that Allen is not “on the front burner” for the Raiders at this time.

Raiders Fire GM Reggie McKenzie

The Raiders have parted ways with GM Reggie McKenzie, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). McKenzie was given the chance to stay on board for the rest of the season, but it sounds like he’ll leave his post immediately. 

Rumors have circulated about McKenzie’s job security since the hiring of Jon Gruden in the offseason. The talk has picked up in recent weeks, though Gruden did his best to throw water on the fire when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

I don’t have any comment on that,” Gruden said (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Review-Journal). “We’re going to build this team back. I know that. We’re going to bring the Raiders back.”

At the time of Gruden’s hiring, owner Mark Davis insisted the two men would work in concert. That’s not how things played out. Gruden, who had control over the 53-man roster, brought in his own scouting staff including Dave Razzano, the club’s “Director of Football Research.”

McKenzie, a former NFL linebacker, worked for the Packers’ front office from 1994 through 2012. After that, he was hired as the Raiders’ GM, inheriting a team with an awful cap situation and depleted draft capital. McKenzie was not perfect, but he did manage to turn that club into a playoff team. Now that he’s on the open market, one can’t help but wonder if a return to the Packers is in the cards.

With Gruden and his own group of hand-picked advisors at the helm, the Raiders overhauled their roster this offseason, including the controversial trade of Khalil Mack to the Bears. The Raiders have lots of picks in the 2019 draft, but they don’t have a lot of 2018 wins after Gruden targeted over-the-hill free agents and benched many of them in favor of younger players.

On Sunday, the Raiders upset the Steelers (thanks in large part to Chris Boswell‘s slip) and improved to 3-10 on the year. If the season ended today, the Raiders would pick third and twice more in the first round (No. 25, 26) thanks to the trades of Mack and Amari Cooper.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: Paton, Coughlin, McCarthy

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has seen his name come up a great deal over the past couple of years as rival clubs sought new general managers, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Paton remains one of the top candidates for teams that will be looking for a GM in 2019. The fact that Paton has withdrawn his name from consideration for GM jobs in the past have suggested to some that he does not want to leave Minnesota, but La Canfora says Paton is indeed open to taking over a franchise next year. Although he declined to interview with the Dolphins in the past, Miami would be a potential landing spot if the team were to make front office changes this offseason.

Now for more from La Canfora’s typically abundant supply of Sunday reports:

  • There have been rumblings that Jaguars team president Tom Coughlin could return to the sidelines and become Jacksonville’s head coach (again) in 2019. La Canfora noted last week that Coughlin could take over as the Jags’ HC, and the fact that the team’s 2018 campaign has been tarnished by fights, suspensions, and lack of discipline could convince Coughlin, a noted disciplinarian, to take the reins. JLC says that there is a “growing perception” around the league that Coughlin will at least consider that move.
  • It has been obvious for some time that 2018 would be Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie‘s last year with the team, and La Canfora reaffirmed as much this morning. In addition to their GM, the Raiders will also be replacing several other members of their scouting and football operations staff, per La Canfora.
  • The Chiefs and Chargers will play each other in a pivotal Week 15 bout this Thursday. La Canfora tweets that Kansas City safety Eric Berry and Los Angeles running back Melvin Gordon will both be on the field for that game, although both are inactive today.
  • La Canfora confirms that former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will be “very judicious” about his next opportunity and may not return to the sidelines in 2019 if the right opportunity does not present itself. We have already heard that the Jets‘ opening may not be especially appealing to McCarthy, and although his connection with Cleveland GM John Dorsey has led to plenty of speculation that McCarthy could take over as the Browns‘ HC, La Canfora says the Panthers and Ravens gigs — should they open up — are more intriguing to McCarthy. Sources close to McCarthy say they do not expect him to land in Cleveland.
  • Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is undergoing counseling for anger management and alcohol use, and he is also being mentored by a pastor and attending women’s group sessions as he attempts to prove to the league that he is ready for another opportunity. La Canfora says that no one is expected to sign Hunt until the league announces his suspension for three separate incidents, but that several teams have already reached out to him and will continue to monitor his progress and recovery. JLC’s sources say they expect Hunt to play in 2019, and Hunt himself is reportedly eager to assist the league in its investigations.

Raiders Owner On Mack Trade, Gruden

Raiders owner Mark Davis is taking responsibility for the team’s 1-8 start, even though many are pointing fingers at head coach Jon Gruden

I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me,” Davis told ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez. “Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven’t been able to build a 22-man roster. We haven’t been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now.”

Over the course of a 45-minute interview, Davis discussed Gruden, GM Reggie McKenzie, the team’s widely panned trade of defensive star Khalil Mack, and much more. Here’s a look at the highlights:

On Gruden’s role in the Mack trade:

Jon wanted him. Everybody thinks that Jon’s the one who wanted to get rid of him. Jon wanted him badly. Why wouldn’t you want this guy? Reggie wanted him badly. And I wanted him badly, too. But, if in fact we were going to give the type of money that we were going to give to him, and we had Derek on that type of a (contract), how were we going to go ahead and build this football team, with all the holes that we had?

On what prompted the team to send Mack to the Bears: 

My thought was, “Listen, he signed a five-year contract, if he’s the type of guy that I think he is, he’s going to honor that contract.” And he’s going to come in and play for the $13MM for this year and then we’ll work for him during the year and get it. Word came back through certain players that know him and talk to him and know me as well, that he wasn’t going to come in. He was going to do the Le’Veon Bell (holdout). At that point, I said, F’ it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.

On Mack’s agent, Joel Segal:

It might not have been the right decision, but the other point to this whole thing is that Segal is also the agent for Amari Cooper. And we knew the same situation was coming up the next year. It wasn’t just one layer of chess; it was two layers of chess. But to blame Jon, for Khalil Mack not being here, is absolutely not the truth. It was a decision that was made and it wasn’t made easily … I don’t have any bad feelings toward (Mack). I wish he would have talked to Jon and Reggie and wanted to at least honor the fifth year of his contract.

On the future of quarterback Derek Carr:

Derek is taking a lot of s— right now. He is the franchise quarterback right now. He doesn’t have Amari Cooper. He lost (Martavis) Bryant to a knee injury today. Guys have been getting hurt. Who’s he throwing to? Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts, which are good guys. But they’re not putting the fear of God in anybody. The tight end (Jared Cook) is playing his ass off. You look at the quarterback and he’s playing behind a battered offensive line … so I don’t know what you can put on Derek and I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on him.

On McKenzie’s future:

Reggie and I need to sit down and talk and figure out how we are going to go about the future. We’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out, where the hell did we go wrong in trying to build this thing? We failed. I have failed. But at the same time, we wouldn’t have been in the great position we were in without Reggie McKenzie being here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jon Gruden’s Evaluation Methods Have Created Tension

Reports last week suggesting that 2018 would be Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie‘s last with the organization were hardly surprising. Once Oakland hired Jon Gruden to be its new head coach, it was clear that Gruden would be the primary decision-maker with respect to roster construction, which owner Mark Davis confirmed back in April. As such, most assumed that Gruden and McKenzie would not be coexisting for too long.

But regardless of how one feels about McKenzie’s and Gruden’s relative abilities to evaluate talent, a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com this morning regarding Gruden’s evaluation methods may be a cause for concern for Raiders fans. Per Rapoport, Gruden essentially has his own staff that helps him judge talent and make decisions, and he listens primarily to those within his circle (none of whom are scouts and evaluators weaned under McKenzie).

That setup — which Gruden currently has no plans to change, even in 2019 and beyond — has created a disconnect in the building that several sources say they have never really experienced before. It appears that there is a close-knit group of “Gruden’s guys,” and then there is everyone else, and while the factions do come together to make sure all voices are heard, those outside of Gruden’s circle believe they are not really being listened to.

It was Gruden and his group that spearheaded the signing of several older free agents, the jettisoning of many previous draft picks, and the much-debated trade of Khalil Mack, which has only intensified the feelings of disconnect. And it appears that Gruden’s most trusted confidant is Director of Football Research Dave Razzano, a longtime NFL scout who became a controversial Twitter voice with hot takes like “Jake Locker should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft” and “Von Miller will be a bust.”

McKenzie reportedly turned down a chance to interview for other GM jobs this past offseason, and even if he does not secure a GM post in 2019, he will surely be working in someone’s front office. The real question is whether Gruden’s approaches to the game after a long absence, which have raised more than a few eyebrows, will ultimately lift the club to new heights or send it spiraling into another extended period of questionable leadership and mediocrity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.”