Reggie McKenzie is Working Magic With the Oakland Raiders
Jimmy Hal – Aug 8, 2012
Every fan of the Oakland Raiders has respect for the late Al Davis. He was a legend, not only for his success with his team, but also for his contributions to the NFL. Davis was a true pioneer and renegade in his day. In fact, if it were up to him, the NFL as we know it could indeed be known as the AFL.
Yes, Davis was a leader amongst leaders. He took a poor team, instilled values and a winning attitude that still is prelevent in the team today. Over 50 years, Davis built an empire known as the Raiders.
However, it is not a secret that over the past decade, the Raiders have fallen on hard times during their reign over the NFL. As the game and business of the NFL changed, Davis stayed true to his vision. Davis' desire to win was infectious, yet the decisions he made to do so may not have been beneficial.
High priced free agents and questionable coaching hires did not help Davis or the Raiders return to the promised land known as the Super Bowl. Instead, it caused the team to eventually need a complete makeover.
As Davis rests, his son Mark Davis has taken over his legacy. The next Mr. Davis plans to lead the Raiders into the future, yet admits he does not have his father's skill set for football talent evaluation.
For that and other football operations, he has hired general manager Reggie McKenzie. McKenzie was the man Davis locked in on after strong reccomendations from respected names across the NFL. Now, McKenzie plans to work his magic in line with the principles and commitment to excellence that were left by the previous regime.
How has McKenzie worked his magic thus far?
First, it is his fearlessness when facing tough decisions. For example, the firing of Hue Jackson. Though it is common for a general manager to fire a previous coach in favor of one he hand-picks himself, firing Jackson could not have been easy.
Though Jackson made questionable personel decisions, he was a head coach that almost got this team to the playoffs in 2011. In terms of offensive production, the Raiders were at their best under Jackson's offensive mind.
It was clear that Jackson's flashy style and enjoyment of media spotlight was not in sync with McKenzie's long term vision.
McKenzie recognized this team needed structure and discipline. He found a young, unknown coach with those traits in Dennis Allen. Though the results are not yet clear, Allen has made an impression on his team and they understand the chain of command. No more going over the coach's head, as McKenzie has allowed Allen to run this team as he sees fit.
Another way McKenzie has spread his magic is through personnel decision making.
Al Davis never felt he was in rebuilding mode. He always felt he was one superstar free agent away from being a Super Bowl contender. McKenzie has shown a different approach in free agency. Cutting Standford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley was neccessary in order to fix the salary cap. How those roles were filled was what was impressive.
Free agent Ron Bartell was not a sought after cornerback. He is not stellar in either man-to-man or zone coverage, but is consistent and servicable in both. He does nothing great, but everything well. His tenacity and veteran leadership make him the perfect mentor for young corners Demarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa.
Those qualities make Bartell a better system fit than Routt.
The same could be said of linebacker Phillip Wheeler. McKenzie continued to fill a whole with talent at a decent price. Wheeler is not the pass rusher Wimbley was, yet in this new scheme of Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, Wheeler can utilize the athleticism he does have in pass coverage and as a blitzing linebacker.
That versatility is much needed as Wimbley was solely a pass rusher, but not an overall linebacker.
The acquisition of running back Mike Goodson was a bit of magic as well. Trading Bruce Campbell, a player who was likely going to be cut, for a position of need was ingenius. Player for player trades are rare these days in the NFL, so to pull off this trade without giving up a draft pick was impressive. Even if Goodson does not work out, (which is unlikely as he is impressing in training camp) and gets cut, it would not hurt the long term future of the team.
McKenzie was recomended for the job due to his eye for talent, and in the draft he did not disappoint. Despite a lack of selections, McKenzie found hard working talent in potential steals in linebacker Miles Burris and wide receiver Juron Criner. Even in undrafted free agency a diamond in the rough was found in wide receiver Rod Streater, who made former Raiders' receiver Louis Murphy expendable.
Though Al Davis will live on through his legacy of the Raiders, it is McKenzie who will continue and preserve in his vision. He may be the perfect person to do so, as he once wore the silver and black as a player.
Through McKenzie's magic, the Raiders can continue to "just win baby".
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