Raiders

Raiders run rehearsals to prep Mike Mayock for first NFL draft as GM

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AP

Raiders run rehearsals to prep Mike Mayock for first NFL draft as GM

Mike Mayock doesn’t like mock drafts. He did one per year for NFL Network, a practice initially done kicking and screaming.

Those were designed to satiate fans while working his old job. This week’s mock draft was of a different kind, specifically designed to prepare for his new one.

The preeminent NFL draft analyst was named Raiders general manager last New Year’s Eve and will run his first NFL draft representing a team at any level of scouting or a personnel department.

Head coach Jon Gruden ultimately has the final say on players selected, but Mayock helped set the Raiders' draft board, and will be the team’s liaison negotiating trades during a three-day event that begins with Thursday night’s opening round.

It’s the first time he’ll be under fire with the Raiders on the clock or trade offers made on the fly, and Mayock wanted to prep for that. The Raiders stacked their draft board, and planned to set up some actual mock drafts with calls coming in so Mayock and Gruden could see how they react in real time.

“The week of the draft, I think we’re going to spend an awful lot of time in there, in our war room, in our draft room with the people that are going to be there, kind of going through every scenario that we can,” Mayock said on April 11, at his pre-draft press conference. “I’m going to have people calling in on the phones and trying to get Jon and I rattled and proposes. Let’s be honest, I haven’t done it before. So, if I’m going to evaluate myself, I have to make sure I’m prepared.”

That endeavor started on Monday, per NFL Network. The Raiders planned to work on specific scenarios that required quick answers and an ability to adjust properly.

“There’s two minutes left on the clock and three phones are ringing. What is the process?” Mayock said. “How are we going to react as a team? Where is everybody even sitting in the room? What’s the feedback? How quickly am I going to get the information on the trades and the point values? So, there’s a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve kind of got it, I said to Jon, it’s game week. We want to get in there and practice our game plan no different than the team would for a Sunday game.”

The Raiders pared the room down before preparing for draft day. Mayock told his scouts to head home on April 19, the final weekend before the draft and asked them not to return. That decision created some waves, though it’s understandable considering all the information had been gathered – other teams don’t let scouts see the draft board – and it was a terribly-kept secret that major turnover was coming to the scouting department. Even director of college scouting Shaun Herock – like most scouts, he was hired by previous GM Reggie McKenzie -- was asked to leave and is expected to work elsewhere in 2019.

The Raiders have closed ranks to keep things quiet and remain unpredictable heading into a pivotal NFL draft where they own three first-round picks and four in the top 35 overall.

A leak still got out, however, with NFL Media’s Mike Silver reporting that Mayock made some early trades and took picks without red flags in the early going.

Mayock wasn’t going into this completely green. He has great NFL connections and has covered the draft long enough to know how it’s run inside draft rooms. It was still important for Mayock to feel as prepared as possible heading into this big moment.

“Over the last 18 years or whatever, I’ve got pretty good feedback for what happens, how it happens, the pressures, the time frames,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in this building about how they’ve done it in the past. Where’s everybody sitting? What’s up on the boards? I’ve changed some things already with what’s going to be up in the room and some of the information available to us and how we’re going to process that information. I think the important thing, Michael, is at the end of the day is just some of these practices, putting some pressure on ourselves and hoping that if we put enough pressure on ourselves Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday under a bunch of different kind of conversations and trades, that when Thursday night comes and Friday Saturday, we’re more than prepared to deal with anything.”

[RELATED: Haskins reportedly moved up Raiders' draft board, option at No. 4]

Gruden is confident that, when the clock starts and calls come flying in on trades and scenarios – they certainly, with the Raiders owning three first-round picks – Mayock will execute well.

“He is such a great communicator and has so many connections in the league, it helps to get deals done,” Gruden said. “He is not afraid, he's got the guts and he has the knowledge to pull the trigger. That is what I really like.”

Tim Brown rips Bill Callahan as 'worst thing' to happen to Raiders

Tim Brown rips Bill Callahan as 'worst thing' to happen to Raiders

Tim Brown and Bill Callahan probably won't be making plans to go out the brunch anytime soon.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been a vocal critic of his former coach for a long time. He blames Callahan and his last-second game plan change as the reason Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins disappeared prior to Super Bowl XXXVII. As far as Brown is concerned, the Raiders would have been better off if Callahan never coached the Silver and Black.

"I think this guy was probably the worst thing that ever happened to the Raiders organization," Brown said on NBC Sports' Sports Uncovered podcast, which details Robbins' Super Bowl disappearance.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Callahan's attitude and the way he dealt with players rubbed a number of Raiders the wrong way.

"The way he handled his guys, the way he talked to men, the way he approached, and the lack of respect that he had for men, people had an issue with him," Anthony Dorsett said.

It wasn't just the struggles of a first-year coach, though. Brown says he and other Raiders tried to get Jon Gruden to cut Callahan loose while the latter was offensive coordinator.

"We tried to get Callahan fired in '98 and '99," Brown recalled. "He walked off the field twice. At the middle fourth quarter of games that we should've won, we weren't winning. 'You guys don't want to win here. I don't know why I came here.' Walked off the field. Went to Gruden, Gruden went, 'Hey, guy's emotional, whatever.' Did the same thing in '99. and we went to him again. We said, 'You got to fire this guy. We can't have a coach walk off in the middle of the game on us.' And Gruden wouldn't fire him. So from that standpoint on, we understood that Callahan was in a seperate category."

When Gruden was traded prior to the 2002 season, a number of players went to owner Al Davis to ask him to hire Callahan, believing they were on the cusp of greatness following the heartbreaking loss in the "Tuck Rule Game" the year before.

But the differences between Gruden and Callahan were stark, and things with the Raiders changed.

"Dudes would play for Gru," Dorsett said. "Dudes would play for Gru. They love him, you know what I'm saying? When Callahan became the coach we played for each other.

"When he addressed the team as head coach, he was like, 'I don't need any more friends. So, that's not what I'm worried about here."

It was clear almost immediately to Brown that this wasn't the right call.

"Callahan didn't care about us," Brown said. "He could care less about us. It was a job for him. WIth Gruden, there were relationships there."

[RELATED: Would Raiders have won Super Bowl if Robbins played?]

Despite the lack of connection with Callahan, the Raiders steamrolled through the regular season and into the Super Bowl, where Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were waiting.

The Raiders, filled with swagger, thought the title was theirs. But a confluence of events, including Robbins' disappearance and Callahan's decision to change the game plan on Friday, left them shellshocked entering Qualcomm Stadium.

The Bucs were ready for everything the Raiders threw at them, and some members of the Silver and Black swear Gruden knew what plays were coming.

The 48-21 demolition by the Bucs led some to charge Callahan with purposefully handing his former boss a title.

"We have guys on the sideline at the Super Bowl, who are trying to get the head coach," Brown said. "Guys who want to fight him, at the Super Bowl. On the sideline. In the locker room. That's all anybody was talking about. 'This is sabotage, Callahan. You did this for Gruden!' "

Callahan has denied the accusations. He was fired after the following season when the Raiders posted a 4-12 record.

Was it sabotage? Doubtful. But it's clear Callahan was in over his head from Day 1 as the leader of the Silver and Black.

Raiders claim Jon Gruden, Buccaneers knew their plays in Super Bowl XXXVII

Raiders claim Jon Gruden, Buccaneers knew their plays in Super Bowl XXXVII

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

The Raiders arrived at Super Bowl XXXVII prepared to reclaim their rightful place atop the NFL. Only their old coach Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccanneers stood in their way.

The Silver and Black were confident in a victory. They were armed with the No. 1 offense in the NFL, and weren't scared of the Bucs. By now you're aware of the story. Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins went missing the night before the game and the Raiders were trounced 48-21.

After the thrashing, the excuses started flowing from the Raiders. The fingers were pointed at Robbins for going missing and at coach Bill Callahan for his drastic last-minute game plan alteration. But while Robbins' disappearance -- which is the focus of NBC Sports' latest episode of their Sports Uncovered podcast series -- had a big impact, many Raiders believe the Gruden effect played a bigger role, believing the Bucs knew what plays they were running.

"Every level of the defense knew what we were doing," former right tackle Lincoln Kennedy said. "They knew what to look for when we checked versus a blitz. They knew where we were going with the ball. They knew Rich's rotation."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

"You have never played a football game where 95 percent of the plays, the other team, they can guess what plays you are running based on scheme," Mo Collins recalled in 2011. "But these guys, we was breaking the huddle, and they was calling out our formation, and bossing over to our formations." (Mo Collins died in 2014. He was 38.)

If the Bucs did know the Raiders' plays, the blame should fall on Callahan for not switching up the checks from when Gruden coached the Raiders the year prior.

"I played with some of them after the fact," former defensive tackle Sam Adams said. " And they're like, 'We cannot believe you're using the same checks, and the same terminology.' We -- I mean Gruden ran practice saying, 'He's using the same stuff that he put in.' Come on. How can that be?"

To members of the Bucs, though, all this talk are just excuses for the beating they laid on the Raiders.

"It's the same offense that Jon Gruden ran when he was there," former Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland said. So, we practiced against the same offense for a year. So, if you're not going to change any of the same audibles that Gruden uses in Tampa, that's on you."

[RELATED: Al Davis never got over Super Bowl loss to Bucs]

The Raiders walked into Qualcomm Stadium without their Pro Bowl center, and with a game plan that was barely 48 hours old. They left with their tail between their legs.

Looking back on the loss, none of that mattered. The Raiders were instilled as four-point favorites, but that line was off.

That was always Gruden and the Bucs' Super Bowl to win.