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.”