In 2012, Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie to take over a franchise who had been under the leadership of just one man since 1963. When Al Davis passed away, this team was left in mass disarray in more ways than one.
Undermining Mark’s difficult position was Hue Jackson, who acted quickly to seize the opportunity. Hue’s plan was to trade future assets in an attempt to garner enough wins to gain him influence into Mark’s (upcoming) crucial decision. When Al died, Hue became de facto GM, promptly taking advantage of that, by making what he proclaimed “The greatest trade in NFL History”. Hue traded an unprecedented 4 draft picks mid-season, including a first and second rounder for Carson Palmer (who’d spent the last year rigorously training from his living room couch). It was a gamble that did not pay off for Jackson, as he was quickly relieved of his duties following the McKenzie hiring.
Upon walking through the door in Alameda, Reggie had the daunting task of building a roster without draft picks or available cap space to sign players. Reggie’s only option was the one he was most suited to implement, a long-term plan which most executives wouldn’t dare put into place. It’s very uncommon to undergo a franchise rebuild like we’ve just seen, GM’s are hesitant because the odds are heavily stacked against them seeing the end of the process. The NFL, otherwise known as “Not For Long”, rarely allows for GM’s to see the 4th year after suffering through an 11-37 stretch (as the Raiders did from 2012-14). Much credit goes to Mark Davis for seeing the big picture, but even more credit to McKenzie for having the stones to keep pushing ahead.
Reggie certainly hasn’t been perfect, he’s made his share of mistakes, but that’s standard protocol in a league where even the top organizations have trouble finding more than one starter in a given draft. Where Reggie stood above the rest was a historic 2014 draft class which netted us (among others), Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, two franchise altering players who’ve changed the landscape of this team as we know it.
Let’s look back at what the “experts” were saying not too long ago:
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) September 21, 2014
From Mike Silver, who still hasn’t come to grips that Hue Jackson might not be the greatest coach in the Universe.
Reggie McKenzie now 11-37 as Raiders GM. He inherited an 8-8 team. If you're Mark Davis, it's tough to sell 'progress.' Your move, MD…
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) December 29, 2014
Even respected insiders like Adam Schefter were predicting McKenzie’s imminent demise. From 2014:
Raiders owner Mark Davis is getting ready to make bold moves and spend big money to help restore Oakland to the winning ways it once knew, and general manager Reggie McKenzie could be a casualty of the overhaul, multiple league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Now, here we are:
.@RAIDERS GM Reggie McKenzie, whose moves helped OAK reach playoffs for 1st time since '02 with a 12-4 mark, is 2016 Executive of the Year.
— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 19, 2017
Congrats Reggie McKenzie, in a league where the General Manager is the most important position in securing long term sustained success, we may have ourselves the best in the business.