Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie acknowledged being named the NFL’s executive of the year was a big deal. It’s the highest individual honor bestowed on a personnel man.
Not in McKenzie’s eyes. His name’s on the plaque, but the general manger considers it a team honor. It takes a village to raise a roster, something McKenzie knows after working through the ranks.
“The acknowledgement, to me, is for the organization, from the top down,” McKenzie said. “From the patience and the vision together with me and (owner Mark Davis) on through the work, the daily work of the coaches and players and to play on Sunday. That’s what the acknowledgement is really all about.
“You see the entire organization working together to win. That’s what I see. It’s an accomplishment from the standpoint that we’re winning now. That’s what I feel good about. That’s why this award is special. It’s a team award, but it’s special to me that this thing is resulting into wins.”
The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season. That postseason experience was not positive. The Raiders got waxed in Houston, completing a brutal two-loss stretch where an AFC West title was lost and the season formally ended.
The downward spiral started in Week 16, after quarterback Derek Carr broke his fibula. Backup Matt McGloin played poorly and then hurt his shoulder the next game, which forced the Raiders to start rookie Connor Cook against Houston.
A loss seemed likely – Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn was also sidelined – but that didn’t make it easier for McKenzie to handle.
“Well, I’m still getting over it, (likely) until I win my next game,” McKenzie said. “It’s tough anytime you lose your last game. It’s going to eat at you and that’s one thing about being a player, being associated in this, it’s the drive for the next game. What can I do to help us win that next game? And that’s the hope we have now, is the opportunity to play again, you know? Albeit, in ’17, but that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to set the course for this ’17 season. So, it’s going to eat at you until then.”
It’s that drive that pushed McKenzie during difficult times, when talent piled up but didn’t translate to wins. Seeing the fruits of that labor is incredibly gratifying for McKenzie and staff. This award is part of that – to the victor go the spoils – though the end goal remains out of reach and will until the Raiders win a Super Bowl.
“Nobody likes losing, so I get that. If you really believe in what you’re doing and you’re supported, the hope is to start to win games, and to get to the playoffs is a step,” McKenzie said. “We feel good about that, but we’re only scratching the surface. We still want to hold up the trophy. That’s what we’re going to continue to strive to do. That’s our next step. We need to win playoff games.”