Editorials

Reggie McKenzie’s Days Were Numbered Once Raiders Hired Jon Gruden

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The headline is an attention-grabber: Oakland Raiders fire general manager Reggie McKenzie. And yet, to anyone who has been paying attention, the story itself couldn’t be any less surprising.

Despite serving as the Raiders general manager since 2012, McKenzie’s days were numbered the second Jon Gruden got handed $100 million and a 10-year contract. On that day, it became clear who was calling the shots in Oakland — and it definitely wasn’t McKenzie.

For some, this shift of power was met with sadness. After all, McKenzie was the guy who drafted Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson and Justin Ellis in the same freaking draft. For others, however, it was an ‘about time’ moment. McKenzie also happened to be the guy who spent the ensuing three drafts with an enormous number of swings-and-misses.

In looking back on McKenzie’s tenure, it’s honestly an incredibly difficult one to grade. His ability to clean up the team’s cap situation deserves an A+ — and adding cornerstones like Mack and Carr in the draft would be two feathers in the cap of any general manager regardless of how long it took them. In free agency, he added guys like Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn and Michael Crabtree — all of whom were ranked among the team’s top 10 free agent additions in franchise history.

On the flip side, however, there were the disappointments. The two coaches McKenzie was responsible for? Dennis Allen and Jack Del Rio (neither of whom returned to be head coaches since being fired). And while Mack and Carr were home runs, guys like DJ Hayden, Menelik Watson, Sio Moore, Mario Edwards, Clive Walford, Karl Joseph, Jihad Ward, Shilique Calhoun, Obi Melifonwu and Eddie Vanderdoes were all first, second or third round picks who have failed to live up to their draft position.

Regardless of how you feel about McKenzie and Gruden, one thing is for sure: heading into this season, the roster wasn’t ready to compete for a Super Bowl. While McKenzie had nailed the cornerstones, he had swung and missed at the depth necessary for a sustainable run at championships (both in the draft and in free agency) — which is what led Gruden to send guys like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper packing.

With McKenzie gone, the reigns are now firmly and obviously entrenched in the hands of Gruden and just as McKenzie was graded in hindsight, time will tell whether this was a good day or bad one in Raiders history.

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