Raiders

McKenzie says he fired Jackson

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McKenzie says he fired Jackson

New Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said Tuesday at his introductory press conference that the firing of head coach Hue Jackson was a decision he made prior to his arrival at team headquarters.

McKenzie, the former L.A. Raiders linebacker who was hired last week after a long career in the Packers' front office, shared the podium with owner Mark Davis in a packed media room in Alameda.

McKenzie disclosed that when he interviewed he was told that the position of GM would include the power to hire and fire the coach. After accepting the job, McKenzie said he informed the team's owner of his intention to dismiss Jackson.

"No. 1, I want my guy. Everything is based on performance," McKenzie said. "But I go with my gut a lot, so when it's time to make the final call, my gut is going to tell me one thing. When I met, interviewed, with Mr. Davis, Mark told me the general manager would have the power to hire and fire the coach. Recently I let him know that I would like to move on from coach Jackson and began my search for a new coach -- and he was OK with that.

The new general manager said that he'd studied the Raiders and Jackson this year and had made up his mind about the coach's fate within "the last couple of days." The move came four days after the team announced McKenzie's hiring.

"The decision to move forward and where we are going into this new era, it's going to be a time for change," McKenzie said. "I felt there was a need for change at the head coaching position, from the top. We're moving into a new era. No disrespect to coach Jackson but this was something I wanted to do, start anew."

McKenzie spoke of reshaping the franchise with his vision and leadership.

"The legacy of the Raiders is steeped in tradition but with all things there comes a time when change is necessary and for the Raiders, that time is now," McKenzie said. "The Raiders organization, with respect and deference to all its tradition and history, is about to embark on a new era."

What exactly that entails is a quality that McKenzie will define. As it applies to the roster, it will include physical ability, of course, but intangibles will be a part of the process, according to the new GM.

"You want to make sure youve got productive, good football players," McKenzie said. "Its not totally talent. I want some guys who love to play the game, thats going to play hard, thats going to play tough. Thats what Im looking for. Im looking for some guys who want to play and want to win."

Asked about his role in the firing of Jackson and the hiring of McKenzie, Davis said the process of moving the Raiders forward was initiated by the death of his father, Al Davis, the team's longtime owner.

"Change happened on Oct. 8," Davis said, referencing the day of his father's passing. "And we had to bring this full-around. The one thing I do know is what I don't know. And the one thing I did know was I needed to bring the right people in here. I had the right people to consult with (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf and (former Raiders coach) John Madden, and those kind of people. We discussed a lot of things about the Raiders organization and which way it should go.

"And my feeling always has been that if my father wasn't here we needed somebody to run that football side of the building. And I needed to find the right person and I truly believe that Reggie McKenzie is the man for this job and I think you'll all see that as we go along."

Davis said he had a lot of respect for Jackson, that the coach had "brought a lot to this organization. But as Reggie said, it is time to move forward, and that's what we're going to do."

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was twice asked about making in-season changes at his Monday press conference.

He wouldn’t rule it out. Del Rio said he would do anything necessary to help the team “win now,” and later said "we're not getting into staff questions this week."

Then he fired Ken Norton Jr. the next day, hoping the dismissal will provide a spark.

It might. More likely, it might not do enough.

It is a shot across the bow at its base, a signal that subpar play won't be tolerated. 

“We played under our talent level,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, “Those things come with consequences.”

New play caller John Pagano has a unique style and knows how to bring creative pressure, disguise a simple play as complex and exploit weak links, but he won’t be using his system this season. He’ll still be working within Norton/Del Rio’s scheme and, more importantly, he’s still playing chess with existing, often inferior pieces. The Raiders understand that, and likely won't judge him on this final stretch alone. 

Why? The defense doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary, the interior defensive line or the inside linebacker corps. That’s not on Norton or Pagano.

Pagano can’t do a thing about an offense struggling mightily to catch passes, block consistently and let plays develop downfield.

The Raiders have some major talent problems, with rush and coverage rarely working together as desired. That, and some uninspired schematics, have produced awful statistics.

The Raiders don’t have an interception, and are the first team to go 10 games without a pick. They’re on track to have the second-worst opposing completion percentage (72.3) and passer rating (113.3) in NFL history, per the Associated Press.

They’re also last in sacks for the second straight year, with just 14 this season despite having reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.

They're thin because last year's second and third round picks, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun aren't contributing. This year's draft class had to make an immediate impact, but Gareon Conley played two games, Obi Melifonwu spent eight games on IR and Eddie Vanderdoes as underwhelmed after a promising start.

Highly paid free agents haven't performed well enough, and many could be shown the door.

It’s possible roughly half of the starting lineup doesn’t return next season, with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and NaVorro Bowman likely out the door as free agents or roster cuts.

In sum, this isn’t all Norton’s fault.

He was, however, the easiest cut. You can’t fire players en masse during the year, and Pagano was an easy replacement without disrupting the position coaches. Pagano has extensive experience calling plays. He was the then-San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012-16.

Norton wasn’t an innovative play caller. He was passed over for coordinator jobs while serving as Seattle’s linebackers coach, after Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were hired as head coaches. Del Rio, who played with Norton in Dallas back from 1989-91, hired Norton shortly after being hired by the Raiders.

The Raiders' defense has never been good under Norton/Del Rio, and Norton was on a hot seat most of last season. It was surprising when Pagano was hired that Norton was retained and allowed to continue despite underwhelming performance.

Norton was immensely popular in the locker room, especially with members of the front seven. Mack and Irvin in particular were Norton guys. Norton and Irvin go way back to Irvin’s Seattle days, where the coach helped the player get and stay on the right path.

That’s why this firing was deeply felt on Tuesday. The players were told in an afternoon meeting, following a walk-through focused on corrections from Sunday’s New England loss.

"The axe came down on everybody," free safety Reggie Nelson said. "Everybody felt it in this building. Players, we love Norton, regardless. Unfortunately, the production wasn't a high standard this year and it's a production league. He's not playing. We are.”

The Raiders are 4-6, and can’t afford to lose many more games. They might need to be perfect down the stretch to avoid a messy tiebreaker situation. That’s a tough ask for a team that’s been woefully inconsistent on both sides. This team was always expected to shoot for the middle defensively and have a potentially great offense score points by the bushel.

The offense has been most disappointing, performing far below its pay grade and talent level. There was no movement on that side of the ball. The Raiders hope, with fingers firmly crossed, this defensive change provide the spark necessary to create turnovers and quarterback pressure than has been lacking in a disastrous season to this point.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr.'s time with the Raiders is up.

With the team underperforming, Oakland has fired Norton as the defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. John Pagano will handle the play calling duties when the Raiders take on the Broncos this Sunday.

Head coach Jack Del Rio issued the following statement regarding the news:

“After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator. I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”

The Raiders defense under Norton this season ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allow per game (367.0), is allowing 24.7 points per game and has yet to record an interception through 10 games.

"We played under our talent level. Those things come with consequences," defensive lineman Justin Ellis told reporters shortly after the news broke.

"The axe fell on all of us. We love Coach Norton. We didn’t want to see this happen," safety Reggie Nelson said.

Norton joined Del Rio's staff prior to the 2015 season.