With Reggie McKenzie, we developed a pretty good idea of his strengths and weaknesses. He was known for being patient in the draft and for front loading free agent contracts to limit the potential for dead money should the team decide to cut ties with a player after a couple seasons.
He had some success in the draft, but also received a great deal of criticism. Where he was lauded most was his contract work. What we can expect from Mayock could be the opposite of that.
Mayock is a draft guru thru and thru. That’s what he has done for a very long time and why he was the most respected name during the draft process and the most respected voice at the NFL Network desk on draft day.
The thing is, as Reggie McKenzie would tell you, being a GM is about a lot more than prospect evaluation. Teams have entire scouting departments for that.
McKenzie spent nearly two decades in the Packers’ front office learning how to be a GM. Mayock has spent zero time in an NFL front office position and will have to learn the crucial position on the fly.
The best Mayock could say to answer that concern is that he has “tried to be the GM for all 32 teams” as a draft analyst, adding “I know what it looks like, I know what it smells like, I just need a little help with the mechanics of running a team.”
That’s... something. It’s certainly more than just being a talking head. Mayock knows he will have to feel his way through this job. Mark Davis and Jon Gruden committed to him knowing full well of his deficiencies.
“One of the things I told these guys. . . is that I don’t have all the answers,” Mayock said Monday in his introductory press conference. “To sit in there and pretend I did I think would be disingenuous and the bottom line was for me I was very honest. I need some help with mechanics of the daily regimen, so when you start talking about trades and negotiations and draft day and being on the clock and all that, first time for me and for real? Yeah. But for 15 years I talked to all the top people in the game about what they do and why they do it. We’ll spend a lot of time getting ready for that draft, trust me, and we’ll be ready for free agency.”
Gruden said that he and Mayock would both be making calls for trades, which would suggest the two are both taking on General Manager duties. But it seems pretty clear Gruden still has the final say. He did with McKenzie, and he certainly does with the guy he handpicked to replace McKenzie.
Just as being a head coach is about more than knowing X’s and O’s, being a GM is about more than just contracts and drafts. There are nuances and intangibles that the great GM’s have and that’s where Gruden thinks Mayock will thrive as a GM.
“I know Mayock is going to energize our building,” said Gruden. “I know he’s a great people person, he’s got great people skills. He’ll learn fast what he needs to learn. He’s already met with [Director of College Scouting] Shaun Herock, I think he’s going to be able to adapt to the personnel that we have in place and put his own spin on things quickly.”
Gruden and Mayock said they have been meeting behind the scenes for years and Mayock said many football folks had told him they would be a great fit for each other. And it’s not hard to tell why they are such a good match. They were both the top voice on their respective networks for years — Gruden on ESPN and Mayock on NFL Network.
Just as Gruden was a QB guy, Mayock was a draft guy. Now he will have to focus on not just the draft, but the pro game. And much like Gruden said his time as a Monday Night Football analyst benefitted him in pro evaluations, Mayock says his days on Thursday Night Football did the same for him.
“I’ve spent more and more time on the pro side in the last 7 or 8 years,” said Mayock. “And part of it was driven by the fact that I got Thursday Night Football for our network and part of it was a couple of coaches from around the league who I trust and respect an awful lot have helped me over the years and said ‘Mike, if you want to take this thing to another level, you can’t just be a college guy comparing college players. You’ve got to take those college guys and say does he make a pro roster, is he a backup, is he a starter, is he a difference maker’ so 7 or 8 years ago I made that a priority. I watched a heck of a lot of pro tape both to prepare for games i had and then also to try and get better at my craft.”
So, Gruden has his guy. Just as Reggie McKenzie fired Hue Jackson when he was hired in order to bring in his guy, Gruden likely had a hand in firing McKenzie in order to get his guy.
It’s exciting to be certain. And I doubt anyone from ESPN or NFL Network will be overly critical of the Raiders’ drafting anytime soon. Though just as many were leery of how Gruden would perform from a schematic standpoint after being away from the sideline for a decade, Mayock will receive skepticism at every turn with how he handles every aspect outside of the draft. It comes with the territory.