Where does McKenzie fit with Gruden set to join Raiders?


Where does McKenzie fit with Gruden set to join Raiders?

The Raiders have employed a static, linear power structure since Mark Davis took control. The owner sits on top, with general manager Reggie McKenzie below that in charge of all personnel decisions. The head coach rests below that.

Dennis Allen had say, but no influence in roster creation. Jack Del Rio was more of a lesser among equals, with a louder voice and certainly greater say in personnel. He could obviously decide who started, who played and how much.

Acquiring talent, however, was still McKenzie’s call. And the Raiders power rankings never changed: 1. Owner, 2. General Manager, 3. Head Coach.

Jon Gruden should rearrange that order.

He’s expected to be the Raiders next head coach, with a formal announcement likely coming next week.

The popular and respected personality walks loud and carries a big stick.

History suggests Gruden will have personnel control, a power he held over seven seasons in Tampa Bay. Al Davis ran the show during his first stint with the Raiders (1998-2001), though Gruden had significant say on how things went. He wanted greater personnel control, a point of contention as between him and the famous owner/GM.

Mark Davis has great respect, maybe even reverence for Gruden. He’ll pay the once-and-likely-future head coach a king’s ransom. Great power should come with that.

We won’t know how much until we hear from Davis and Gruden after a formal pact. That must be noted here, and recalled throughout this piece.

We can say with certainty that McKenzie’s influence will be dulled. That will be a blow. McKenzie signed a four-year contract extension in July 2016 that lasts through the 2021 NFL draft.

That doesn’t mean that he’ll want to be here. Or that Gruden will want him to stay long term.

McKenzie’s a respected pro and college scout and would be useful in any regime, but will he want to contribute if Gruden’s truly running the show? Will some of his loyal staff be let go in favor of Gruden’s trusted personnel people, with Reggie powerless to stop it?

Those questions are yet to be answered. While the transition from Del Rio to Gruden should be seamless, uncertainty reigns over the Raiders scouting department as currently constructed. The NFL draft is less than four months away and some continuity would help during that event, making it likely McKenzie sticks around a while at least. 

McKenzie seemed poised to remain in his exact role even during a disappointing 6-10 season where the coaching staff was under fire and his recent draft picks underperformed. He was, after all, Davis’ right hand man and a trusted resource. Will he want to carry on with Gruden in that spot?

McKenzie did lots of dirty work getting the Raiders right with the salary cap, ridding the roster of bloated contracts and bad apples. He deserves credit for a franchise-altering 2014 draft class that reaped Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson. He signed some quality free agents, and built offensive line strength that brought the Raiders back to relevance.

McKenzie also swung a missed on the 2016 draft class, and the Raiders got zero return from this year’s crop in its first season.

Getting Gruden, however, is worth more to Davis than all that. He moved mountains to get his guy -- Davis has done all the hiring and firing of coaches recently -- and is on the cusp of doing exactly that. Gruden being here suggests there's a new sherriff in town.

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'


Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”

Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl


Raiders QB Derek Carr named to third straight Pro Bowl

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is headed to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. He became eligible once New England qualified for the Super Bowl and Tom Brady was out of the running for next week’s NFL all-star game in Orlando.

Carr was the next alternate up, and accepted the invitation to represent the Silver and Black. Khalil Mack, Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn were named to the original roster, though Penn has bowed out with injury.

Carr will join his teammates in Florida for game-week festivities, followed by the inter-conference clash on Sunday at noon at Camping World Stadium. The game can be seen on ABC.

He joins Rich Gannon and Ken Stabler as Raiders quarterbacks with at least three Pro Bowl selections. Carr had a down year relative to his previous two, but still posted standout numbers. He had 3,496 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 86.4 passer rating.

The Raiders finished a disappointing 6-10, and head coach Jack Del Rio was fired in favor of Jon Gruden.

“It was not the year we wanted, but to still be recognized by you, Raider Nation and fans everywhere, and the players and coaches you go against is an extremely high honor I will always be thankful for!” Carr wrote in a note posted on Twitter. “Although I am extremely blessed to be thought of in such a way by my peers, I understand there is more work to do. There is more to achieve and more to accomplish and I will now ret until we get there, Raider Nation!”