The first big domino fell this week with the 0-4 Raiders. But with any series of dominoes, more will fall. Attention naturally shifts to the next in line and that's Reggie McKenzie.
While Dennis Allen has been held accountable for the way this team has performed on the field, Reggie McKenzie will now receive the focus as the man who hired him and put this team together. So, while the team was announcing they had relieved Dennis Allen of his duties as head coach and had replaced him with interim head coach Tony Sparano, the questions turned to whether McKenzie also deserved the same scrutiny.
"A lot of it rides on me," said McKenzie. "I brought Dennis in to win championships here and to win, period. That did not materialize. The way this season began through these first four games, we had to make a change. That falls on me."
Still with the way the season has played out, along with the six-game losing streak to end last season, McKenzie insists he has no regrets bringing Dennis Allen back for a third season. Even despite attempting to rectify that decision just four games in.
As general manager, he not only hired Dennis Allen, he was responsible for the players the team drafted, signed, retained, and did not retain. He fired 8-8 head coach Hue Jackson to bring in 'his guy'. Then he traded away Carson Palmer and traded for Matt Flynn to replace him. This off-season he had $61 million in cap room to spend and yet still watched every one of the team's best free agents walk out to the door. Most notably Jared Veldheer, Rashad Jennings, and Lamarr Houston. All of whom received deals he could easily have matched or exceeded. All while the franchise tag and transition tag both remained unused.
If you were looking for a recipe for a losing team, that would be it.
And the "He didn't want to be here" excuse is the oldest cop-out in the book; designed to give fans a talking point to make themselves feel better when their favorite player is now donning another uniform. The translation usually reads "He didn't want to play for a crap contract."
What McKenzie used to replace their departed players were cast-offs and past-their-prime players who thus far have done little more than prove their critics right. Their supposed 'top ten' quarterback, Matt Schaub, is getting paid $8 million to ride the bench. Even the few below 30 signees like Tarell Brown, Austin Howard, and Maurice Jones-Drew have not produced as hoped.
Reggie McKenzie still claims to like the roster he pieced together this season. He believes with the right head coach, they could live up to their potential.
"I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win," said McKenzie. "I'm not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn't work for Dennis, but the bottom line is it didn't work, for whatever reason. Not only the 0-4 start, but our play, it did not represent what we were capable of and that's the bottom line."
"No, you can't put it on one thing. It's a lot. That's from the top down, from me on down to everyone. Practice squad players, everyone, we all have to get better. That's what our focus is on right now, each day. I think Coach Sparano is the man to help us with that."
If it turns out by the end of the season, this team still has not performed to McKenzie's expectations, shouldn't it then logically fall on McKenzie himself for so woefully misjudging the talent on this team? Along with, of course, the man he initially hired to coach them? Many believe it should.
The person whose opinion matters most in all this is Mark Davis. While he currently has shown more patience than his father, he still wants to see results and progress. The Raiders have not shown anything of the sort. Even in their two previous 4-12 seasons, they looked better out the gates than they do this season.
Still, if Sparano fails to rally the troops, McKenzie believes he will still be here to pick the next head coach.
"Yes I'm going to hire the next coach," said McKenzie. "Conversations with me and Mark are focused on the here and now; trying to get this team headed in the right direction, headed in the right way. As far as my job, we're not talking about that."
"I am not going to get into me down the line. It's not about what I'm going to do in the future. My job is to lead this team, look for the next interim head coach, look for our coach for the future. I'm going to continue to do that unless I'm told otherwise."
"I work every day like my job is on the line. That's just the way I am. No one has to tell me my job is on the line. No one."