The Narnia Raiders have hired Mike Mayock as their new general manager, so I see no reason why he and Jon Gruden shouldn’t start arguing about the direction of this rootless franchise.
At least you’d like to think they will, even if you’re a Raiders fan.
This needs to be a hire that challenges both to work together for their mutual benefit, because the Raiders desperately need to rethink their thinking across the board, from talent acquisition to team building. This is a poor and dispirited team, and it showed it one last time Sunday in Kansas City. If this now is the Gruden-Mayock show, they need to find a way to be fundamentally cooperative yet constructively contentious so new ideas can flourish in a franchise that has had so few of them.
The problem, of course, is things rarely go that way. Arguments over players typically turn to arguments over philosophies, arguments over philosophies typically turn into arguments over power, and arguments over power typically fester into rivalries that end with one man triumphant and the other one either neutered or fired. Gruden steamrolled former general manager Reggie McKenzie because he could, and his still is the biggest contract in the room, so Mayock had better have a firm sense of what his job actually entails, and whether he will have the kind of input that would make the job worth having.
And that is up to Gruden. This is, on all matters that do not involve relocation, his team now.
We have seen the nightmare in Washington, where football takes a back seat to inter-office politics to such an extent that one of the game’s most devoted fan bases now has been reduced by about 30 percent in the stadium and by a more considerable margin outside it.
And if the collection of power and influence is Job No. 1, then the product is by definition going to be inferior.
The Raiders are stuck in an odd stasis right now -- Las Vegas’ team except in reality, and in such a geographical bind that, unless Mark Davis is ready to cave on Oakland, could be playing 16 road games next season, a competitive disadvantage just profound enough to put off the beginning of the real rebuild another year, and maybe even two.
And Gruden, whose true devotion so far in Oakland has to been to guide the renunciation of what he inherited, needs someone (apparently Mayock) to give him the fresh eyes and freedom of speech to help with the team’s reconstruction. Not because Gruden cannot do it himself necessarily, but because the odds are grossly stacked against any one person doing it.
And no, Bill Belichick didn’t get to be Bill Belichick right away in New England. He needed a ring to establish his throne, and even at that remains the exception to a pretty clear rule -- coaches coach, general managers manage, and unless they have same general view on team construction, the relationship between the two eventually will deteriorate.
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In short, Mayock should be brought in to challenge Gruden’s thinking, and Gruden should challenge back -- and both should do it in the spirit of mining the ideas that come from those collaborations to see if they will work. The Raiders were Al Davis’ fiefdom for decades, and they look like Gruden’s fiefdom for the foreseeable future. So, while there is no guarantee that Mayock is the cure for all that ails them, he should be allowed the freedom to be an equal in the room where the decisions are made.
If he isn’t, there was no point in hiring him because the Raiders desperately need new thinking, outside the family and outside its minimal comfort zone. If he’s supposed to be that guy, then let it be so.