Raiders

Mark Davis addresses Reggie McKenzie's 'different role' with Jon Gruden aboard

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AP

Mark Davis addresses Reggie McKenzie's 'different role' with Jon Gruden aboard

ORLANDO, Fla. – Mark Davis set up a linear power structure on the football side of the Raiders organization after Al Davis died. General manager Reggie McKenzie was on top, with a head coach below him.

McKenzie had final say on roster construction, period. If McKenzie wanted a guy, he got him. He was in charge of the salary cap, and handed a head coach a 53-man roster to handle.

That was the case with Dennis Allen. That was the case with Jack Del Rio, though McKenzie’s second head coach had some say in personnel decisions.

Jon Gruden’s arrival has changed things up. McKenzie’s no longer the authority on all things football.

Gruden has influence, maybe even the final say on player acquisition. That was clear when he received at 10-year, $100 million contract to lead the Silver and Black a second time.

That was evident over the last week, when the Raiders signed one free agent after another to fit new offensive and defensive schemes. Gruden got his guys.

Davis said that McKenzie’s role has changed somewhat since Gruden came aboard, one of many topics discussed during an 30-minute interview at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.

“They have roles to play. At this point in time, the role Reggie plays now is a little different than the role he played with Jack (Del Rio), a little different than his role working with Dennis (Allen),” Davis said. “It evolves. He has built the team to where we are now, and we’re in pretty good shape with the cap and everything else. Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years. His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got. That vision, and that direction is going to be helpful to Reggie more so than not. I think they’ll work together very well.”

Davis envisions McKenzie and Gruden working well together. That was his hope when Gruden got hired in January, and that remains the case despite questions about how head coach and general manger would share influence on football decisions.

“Jon’s the head coach and he’s going to be here a while, so it’s important that he gets the players he wants and builds a team he wants to build,” Davis said. “Reggie is there with his staff to find the players, and also to keep the (salary) cap and everything else in order.”

Davis has always been honest about what he doesn’t know. He never wanted to take his late father Al’s role on the football side. He wanted to hire experts to make those choices. He has the guys he wants in place – Davis was influential in Del Rio’s hiring, and eventually landed his white whale in Gruden – and has given them power to do what they think is right.

“I’m done with the football side,” Davis said. “I got Reggie in place early. That was huge. But it was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach. I wanted him way back then, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I continually kept after Jon to see if he was interested. If he decided to come back, I hoped it would be with the Raiders. This year, he finally came on board.

That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. Jon will be our coach for the next 10 years, or until he gets tired of me (laughing). With him and Reggie on the football side of the building, and (director of football administration) Tom Delaney of course, they really do a great job. From the football side, I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

Davis finally has his people in place, and the stability he craved after taking over as controlling owner of the franchise.

“It has been six years since my dad passed,” Davis said. “Looking at the position we’re in to where we are today, I couldn’t be prouder of the people in this organization. To see them come into their own and take the bull by the horns on the business side, it’s really something.”

Michigan coach calls star pupil perfect for Raiders, 'a disruptive, attacking force inside'

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Michigan coach calls star pupil perfect for Raiders, 'a disruptive, attacking force inside'

The University of Michigan football team is in a quiet period between spring practice and fall camp, but Greg Mattison is hot on the recruiting trail. The University of Michigan’s defensive line coach is crisscrossing the country trying to secure quality Wolverines, without much time for anything else.

Squeezing in an interview request during a brief stretch home in Ann Arbor, Mich., wasn’t easy. Mattison, I was told, would get to it during a free moment over a few days.

The respected defensive coach called within the hour.

“I am pretty busy these days, but after I saw (the interview request), I wanted be sure and talk to you,” Mattison said. “Anything for Mo.”

‘Mo’ is defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Mattison’s star pupil and a Raiders fifth-round pick. The bond is strong between player and position coach. Mattison recruited Hurst out of Xaverian Brothers High in Westwood, Mass., and spent five subsequent years developing him into an NFL-caliber player.

Mattison gave a glowing review of his time working with Hurst during an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, as you’d expect from a college coach talking about a former player.

College coaches don’t publicly criticize their guys. But, if they don’t have anything nice to say, they don’t say anything at all.

Mattison called back in a snap.

“I recruited him and coached him for five years, so I probably know Mo Hurst as well as anybody around,” said Mattison, a longtime college coach who was Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator from 2009-10. “He comes from a tremendous family, and his mother is as good a person as you’ll meet and did a tremendous job raising him. Mo has all the work habits and character you want in a player. He’s one of those guys, where I’ve never seen him do something that wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Mattison has great affection for Hurst, which is why the NFL Draft was so tough to watch. Hurst is a first-round talent, arguably the draft’s best interior pass rusher, yet fell to the fifth due to concerns about an irregular EKG.

The University of Michigan cleared him to play despite a heart condition. The Raiders didn’t have a problem with it either, and drafted Hurst with the No. 140 overall selection. The draft slide was a disappointment for all involved.

“He has a lot of pride,” Mattison said. “You watch the draft and so many times I said, ‘Mo’s way better that the kid they just took.’ You know why it was happening, because of this test or whatever. The thing we all knew was that he was fine. It was the same thing when he came to Michigan. He was fine.”

The Raiders believe he is fine to play in 2018, and will have annual checkups to ensure that remains the case each season. Head coach Jon Gruden wants Hurst to be judged on the field -- he won’t discuss Hurst’s health any farther – and the Wolverine has a real chance to make an immediate impact as a three-technique in Paul Guenther’s defensive system.

“He fits perfectly in a scheme like that,” Mattison said. “The Raiders got the greatest steal in the world. He’s a perfect fit, and to get Mo when they did is quite something. What you always want in that type of defense is a disruptive, attacking force inside. I’ll put Mo up against anybody in his ability to do that.”

Hurst is an excellent pass rusher and solid run defender, perfectly capable of being a three-down standout. A lot of that is due to an explosive first step that’s as fast and impactful as any.

“He’s born with that,” Mattison said. “We certainly tried to improve it, but he has always had that great first step. Him doing that and playing low and strong, that’s what makes him special.”

Mattison also lauded Hurst’s football IQ and his willingness to study offensive tendencies, saying “he was really good identifying things on the field and using them to his advantage.”

Mattison believes the five years spent at Michigan gave him the maturity and toughness to excel at the NFL level. It allowed Hurst to earn his bachelor’s degree and start work on his master’s degree. Seeing Hurst move on after accomplishing so much gives Mattison a great sense of gratification.

“That’s why you coach, and that’s why I left the NFL to come back to college football,” Mattison said. “The pride you take in getting a young man to come to your school and watching him develop is immense. I have two goals with my guys. I want them to get a degree, and to play in the NFL. If they do that, then I’ve done my job and I’m the happiest guy in the world. Mo’s a perfect example of that.”

Raiders lock up first-round draft pick

Raiders lock up first-round draft pick

The NFL rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks much easier. Long gone are days of protracted holdouts, especially among first-round selections. Each pick is paid within a tight range based on his draft slot, leaving little room to haggle.

That’s why there was no shock seeing Kolton Miller put pen to paper on Friday morning, when the No. 15 overall selection signed his rookie deal. The Raiders formally announced the four-year deal, which includes a fifth-year team option included in all deals with first-round picks.

Sports salary site spotrac.com estimates that Miller’s deal will be worth $13.583 million over four years, with an $8.074 million signing bonus and a $2.498 million 2018 salary cap hit.

If the Raiders choose to exercise Miller’s fifth-year option for the 2022 season, his base salary will be based on the average of the No. 3-25 highest salaries at his position.

Miller played both left tackle and right tackle at UCLA, but the Raiders see him as a long-term solution on the blind side. He’s training there during the offseason program – that could change – and working with respected offensive line coach Tom Cable, who had say in his draft selection.

“We think he’s a prototype left tackle,” Raiders head coach Jon Grduen said earlier this month. “He can bend, he’s got the length that you’re looking for and he’s a sharp kid. He’s still young though.”

Miller is a quality athlete at 6-foot-9, 309 pounds, someone who needs seasoning but could prove a quality NFL lineman. The Roseville native was the first of two offensive tackles taken in this draft. Brandon Parker was a third-round selection and could play right tackle right away.

Miller becomes the sixth member of the 2018 Raiders draft class to sign his rookie contract.