The much-ballyhooed return of Jon Gruden should not cloud the obvious for the Oakland Raiders: Personnel decisions rest in the hands of general manager Reggie McKenzie. With that said, it is imperative he remain the control. The check to Gruden’s maniacal balance.

“We aren’t always going to agree and Reggie will probably win,” Gruden said at his introductory press conference. “Look at the size of the guy!”

Laughter bellowed after the Gruden’s banter. However, this is not a joke. Gruden is going to command sway over personnel decisions. Owner Mark Davis did not hand him an exorbitant contract for no reason. Yet, Gruden’s priority in Oakland is to whip the roster into shape to chase a Lombardi Trophy. Moreover, McKenzie remains in place to bring aboard players to attain that goal. Davis’ Holy Grail-type quest to land a coach he chased for years only to keep McKenzie aboard is a testament to this.

There is no punchline here.

“My vision at that time was Jon Gruden coaching this football team and Reggie McKenzie bringing in the talent,” Mark Davis said referring to 2012 when he hired McKenzie. “It took me six years of chasing Jon … It is the biggest day of my life right now to have him here to run this organization.”

While Gruden’s input requires heavy credence, McKenzie adhering verbatim to his coach’s request is not requisite to him keeping his gig. In addition, it would be ludicrous for McKenzie to have final say on how Gruden coaches, it’s imperative McKenzie get the ultimate call when it comes to additions and subtractions to the Raiders roster. He has owned that role, for better or worse. McKenzie was given the unenviable task to tear down the walls and rebuild the Raiders from the foundation up. His first head coach flopped(Dennis Allen), followed up with questionable draft picks (DJ Hayden ). However, McKenzie succeeded with  home run selections (Khalil Mack and Derek Carr to name a few). Truth of the matter is Gruden’s record of accomplishment as a de facto personnel man in Tampa Bay was not splendid, either.

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Collaboration is necessary, so is one person pulling the personnel trigger.

“Reggie and I come from the same tree, in Green Bay, raised by Ron Wolf as young Green Bay Packers,” Gruden said. “It has got to be a collaborative effort, whether it be a salary cap decision, a free-agent acquisition, or who we draft. We are going to be united, we are going to work hard, and we are going to assemble the best team possible.”

“It is a team effort. We are a team,” McKenzie matter-of-factly said. “It is going to be a Raider decision, bottom line. We are going to work great together.”

Gruden and McKenzie need to prove the skeptics wrong. Confirm they can work in unison to make the Raiders revered. Verify a decade spent in the booth did not dull coaching mettle. Demonstrate “a glorified salary cap-ologist” is not only demeaning but also flat-out wrong.

If the Gruden-McKenzie Connection does make beautiful music, the draft-day misses will lessen. The Raiders will acquire players that fit the system and there will not be head-scratching scheme changes. Those hypotheticals become reality and Davis’ biggest coup will not be Vegas. It will be the 2012 “pipedream”.


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