After the Los Angeles Chargers humiliated the Oakland Raiders, owner Mark Davis fired Jack Del Rio. Immediately, the course of Oakland Raiders history changed. For the fourth time in the past six years, the team opts for a hard reset of the coaching staff. With Jon Gruden eventually expected to accept the head coaching job, one question swirls above RaiderNation: How will he co-exist with Reggie McKenzie?
Granted, McKenzie’s 2017 does not resemble a highlight in the slightest. The team underperformed, while the coaching staff struggled mightily. This squarely sits upon his shoulders. Conversely, McKenzie banked goodwill and collateral with Mark Davis that should save his job.
- He drafted Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Mostly, the opportunity to work with a young quarterback should excite Gruden. Carr is fairly mobile, strong-armed, and possessing a quick release. On the other side of the ball, Khalil Mack remains a generational-type of pass rusher. Not many players can get to the quarterback and play the run effectively. Mack does both with equal aplomb.
- He built a solid interior offensive line. McKenzie learned on the words of Packers’ GM Ted Thompson. Thompson stressed building his franchises from the line of scrimmage out. Consequently, Osemele, Hudson, and Jackson will protect Carr for next handful of seasons. If the opposition pressures Carr, the heat arrives from the perimeter.
- McKenzie brings a mostly financially sound free agency strategy. With the glaring exception of Sean Smith, the Raiders spend money wisely. They appear to only pay market value and attack positions of need. If Gruden settles into the head coaching role, McKenzie could continue to construct the franchise. For example, here is the Raiders, under the salary cap microscope.
- Although Mack and Carr sit as crown jewels, Hayden, Ward, Edwards, and Calhoun remain troubling. Either through injury of gross underperformance, those picks did not pan out. In addition, the 2017 draft netted sparse returns. To be fair, Melifonwu and Conley suffered injuries. Nevertheless, McKenzie’s draft history seems littered with athletically maxed out players (Miles Burris) or untapped potential with injury histories (Watson, Ball). With Gruden comes the need for plug and play draft picks. Without delay, McKenzie may need to alter his approach going forward.
- During his days in Tampa, Gruden and then-GM Rich McKay clashed. In turn, McKay bolted Tampa for division rival Atlanta. Provided that Gruden receives a sliver of ownership, Reggie McKenzie now works for him. How will McKenzie, who is accustomed to reporting to Mark Davis, handle a head coach with any power?
As mentioned, no one knows how or if the Gruden/McKenzie relationship will even have a chance to pan out. In the end, this alliance could bear success. On balance, Gruden and McKenzie excel at their specific football roles. That requires work by both parties. With this in mind, both must alter their strong personalities.