Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie will work together on Raiders roster construction. Owner Mark Davis and the principal players themselves expressed that time and again during Tuesday’s press conference honoring Gruden’s return to the Silver and Black.
That’s what Davis wants, and has wanted since taking control of this team in 2012.
“My vision at that time was Jon Gruden to coach this football team,” Davis said, “and Reggie McKenzie to bring in the talent.”
He finally has that, following a long pursuit bringing Gruden back.
Mark Davis didn’t give Gruden $100 million to sit in the back seat, but denied that Gruden will have final say on personnel decisions.
“No, Reggie and Jon are going to be working together,” Davis told reporters after Tuesday’s press conference, with this quote from The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. “You should ask them those questions.”
Gruden and McKenzie were asked about that, and stuck to the script.
“It is a team effort,” McKenzie said. “We are a team. It is going to be a Raider decision, bottom line. We are going to work great together.”
Gruden and McKenzie have worked together before. Gruden was Green Bay's receivers coach in 1994, when McKenzie joined the Packers’ personnel department. Gruden became Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator a year later, but the pair grew up under Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf. That gives them, Gruden believes, a shared perspective on players.
“I think we have a similar viewpoint in terms of what kind of players we are looking for,” Gruden said. “It has got to be a collaborative effort, whether it be a salary cap decision, a free-agent acquisition, or who we draft. We’ve got to work together. I think that is the great thing about being here. We are going to be united, we are going to work hard and we are going to assemble the best team possible. We aren’t always going to agree and Reggie will probably win… Look at the size of the guy!”
No question McKenzie would win a backyard brawl. What about a standoff in the NFL draft room, with the Raiders on the clock? What about contrasting views on a free agent, or how to best use salary cap space?
It seems Gruden has been given master keys to the castle.
He has also been given clearance to bring in another executive or two. McKenzie will also be involved in that hiring process. The Raiders wanted former Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf, Ron’s son, but ESPN reports he accepted a job as Cleveland’s assistant GM.
It will be interesting to see who gets hired, and whether that person is connected to one Raiders power player over the other.
Those details will offer insight into the Raiders hierarchy. Gruden is expected to be at the top. Regardless, Davis really wants them to work together. McKenzie scoffed at questions suggesting they can’t.
“That’s laughable,” McKenzie said, via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “Have the people who say that met Jon and me? We’re pretty laid-back guys. We both love football, love the grind and have a relationship back to when we were in Green Bay.”