Mark Davis really wanted Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie to work well together, and made that expressly clear in January during Gruden’s introductory press conference.
[BREAKING: Raiders fire GM Reggie McKenzie]
It was Davis' desire back in 2012 when he took control following his father's death.
“My vision at that time was Jon Gruden to coach this football team,” Davis said in January. "And Reggie McKenzie to bring in the talent.”
He got McKenzie then. He brought Gruden out of the broadcast booth last winter. There were questions right away about whether Davis’ dream division of labor wasn’t going to pan out. Davis rebutted those questions at the time saying decisions would be a team effort: “It’s going to be a Raider decision, bottom line. We are going to work great together.”
They didn’t work great together, or for very long. McKenzie’s role had fundamentally changed, and Gruden was allowed to assemble the roster he saw fit, and those decisions included trading or cutting McKenzie’s draft picks at every turn. Gruden frequently criticized recent draft classes, explaining why the Raiders needed a roster overhaul.
It was clear that McKenzie wouldn’t be around for the long haul, which is why it was no surprise when a source confirmed on Monday that McKenzie had been let go. He was given the opportunity to remain through the season but declined that overture.
He met with his scouts on Monday, another source said, many of whom are longtime friends and confidants, knowing full well the scouting department will be overhauled at some point in the near future.
That department had lost its teeth, with Gruden making pivotal decisions for the franchise.
It was Gruden who ultimately traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper this offseason. He cut or waived other top McKenzie picks.
Each transaction proved who was really in charge, decreased belief that McKenzie would last through the 2019 draft and create division between coaches and scouts.
McKenzie inserted himself in these moves, especially after receiving a first-round pick for Cooper, but it was clear this was Gruden's show.
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“When you talk about pulling strings, Gruden and I work together very well,” McKenzie said. “Let’s make no mistake about that. About him pushing me out, that’s not happening. About me being unable to work with Gruden, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. We work really well together. We’re in each other’s offices all the time, talking about who’s up and down, and who I would like to see play more. We talk about practice squad guys and all that, about claiming players and trading players.
“ ... when you’re talking about the negativity I hear about between me and Gruden, there have been times when I want to make a statement and just say, ‘Really?’ ”
There really were cracks in an outwardly unified front -- the Raiders reportedly had two draft boards last April/May, the ultimate sign of division in the front office -- and now Gruden’s expected to start bringing him executives to help with Raiders scouting efforts. The exact timeline for making changes ultimately remains uncertain at this stage.
Head coach and general manager got along well and worked in tandem executing trades and cuts upon Gruden’s request, but a long-term partnership wasn’t in the cards. It may have never been possible and Gruden took full control, but the attempt to do so and realize Davis’ long-time vision never worked out.
Now the Raiders will carry forward with new executives hired to help Gruden construct this roster and try to make the most of significant salary-cap space and all those first-round picks.