Friday night at the Alumni gala, Raiders owner Mark Davis dropped a bombshell, announcing the team had given General Manager Reggie McKenzie a 4-year extension. Reggie McKenzie spoke before training camp practice today on how it came to be that he will be with the team for the next five years.
Over the past year, things have looked up for the franchise. The foundation laid by drafted players like Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, the team improving to a 7-9 record last season, and free agents seeing Oakland as a place they wanted to play gave Mark Davis all the proof he needed to keep Reggie McKenzie locked up.
Davis liked how free agency was handled and the draft, prompting him to get the ball rolling.
"During draft time, [Mark Davis] came to me and wanted to keep me on board," said McKenzie. "We talked some things over and eventually got it done. This was right around draft time. Right afterwards, we waited until we got done with the draft and started hitting it."
"It’s a great feeling. When you get a pat on the back and people recognize the job that you’re doing, the good work, no matter what it’s a sense of accomplishment."
There was a time not so long ago when from Reggie’s fate seemed up in the air. The term ‘Hot seat’ was thrown around a lot. Meanwhile Mark Davis stuck with McKenzie, recognizing the difficult situation he was put in. And according to McKenzie, he felt confident he would be allowed the time he needed to implement his plan.
"The guys that’s in the building, the guys that I’m working with, they saw the plan," said McKenzie. "It wasn’t going to be a quick fix, and I’m not into quick fixes. Like I said before, it’s a process and it worked the way we kind of planned it. I still haven’t had a winning season. Let get things straight. But we feel good about the direction it’s going. We feel good about this upcoming season and it starts with the players."
"One of the big things is it shows from ownership, from Mark Davis, he was committed to my plan. So, a lot of credit goes to him. I’m sure he had a lot of phone calls, a lot of people talking to him saying ‘Is Reggie the guy?’ Teams that do things quick fast and in a hurry, and try to do this, do that, it don’t last long. Trying to get something that lasts. I want to be a consistent, good football team. That’s what we’re trying to build. And we want to get on the other side of the .500 mark. Then just keep going."
"I had to dismantle the team and money played a big part of that. Once we got it straight and we got a plan to try to keep it straight now, I’m excited. But Mark being able to see what I was envisioning and he was right on with me, so we’re in this thing together. He rewarded me for good work. He’s been by my side, that’s for sure."
Along with turning the franchise around and attracting outside free agents, McKenzie’s job has increasingly become about keeping his own players. He extended players like Michael Crabtree and David Amerson before their contracts were up. Soon he will be facing the free agent status of his first full draft class. And some bigger decision will have to be made.
Helping with those decisions will be having the money available to keep them.
"Just the way that the cap and the way the money is going in the NFL now you gotta figure out how to spend it and spend it wisely," he added. "What better way to spend it than on your own players that you know more about. That’s just the way I was raised in this business. If you got a good player, keep him in the building. And you gotta have the financial means to do that. At some point it’s gonna be some players, if we get enough good players, you can’t pay them all. But you’re gonna try your best to do that and you’ve gotta continue to manage that whole situation. We’ll get the players in here but it’s on the entire medical people, coaches, and money to keep them. It’s not an easy thing to do. That’s why you see a lot of these teams that can’t sustain. If we can continue to manage the money and keep bringing in some players, I’m expecting big things."
Two players who won’t be free agents after this season, but will eventually need to get a new contract are Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Carr is more urgent because he doesn’t have fifth year option on his rookie deal, so following this season, McKenzie must really start working to keep him if that’s still his plan at that time.
"We definitely want to keep our really good players," he said. "We have foreseen those type of situations arising. We’re playing it for those type of players. Y’all can come beat me over the head if I let some of those type players leave this building."
"I’m talking to them all the time. I’ll take his agent out to dinner anytime I see him. You foster good relationships, but the number one thing is you get players that want to be here. You present a good vibe, coaching staff, good relationships with the players, and then you win? That’s when you come into it. When you get a winning team, you don’t have to work as hard. I had to work really hard those first few years to not only try to keep guys, but to get guys to come here. Hopefully it’s easier to keep guys that want to be here. Winning cures all. That’s what’s expected and that’s what we’re gonna do."
And just for good measure, McKenzie was sure to recognize that he doesn’t do this alone. He has a scouting department and a lot of other great football and business minds under him helping him to make the right decisions.
"Everybody wants to point fingers at me, but I’m only as strong as my staff," McKenzie pointed out. "I think I got a really good staff."
Well, McKenzie hired that staff. And Mark Davis hired McKenzie (with extensive advice). Now he is seeing the fruits of that hire and has wisely opted to keep him around.