On January 5th in 2012, the Oakland Raiders hired Reggie McKenzie as the team’s new general manager. McKenzie was a long time personnel man for the Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf. Since 2012, McKenzie has transformed the mighty Silver and Black back into the great franchise it once was. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, however.
First, new general manager Reggie McKenzie fired head coach Hue Jackson and replaced him with Dennis Allen. McKenzie and Allen entered the 2012 NFL Draft without a pick before the compensatory section of the third round. Those picks were forfeited in the Carson Palmer/Richard Seymour trades and the Supplemental Draft choice of a wide receiver trying to play quarterback (Terrelle Pryor). With the 2012 draft being the equivalent to a scratch, Allen’s Raiders crawled to 4-12 in 2012.
Then, McKenzie was silent in the 2013 free agent period, still trying to get Oakland out of salary cap purgatory. McKenzie also flipped the third overall pick of the draft to the Miami Dolphins for picks No. 12 & 42. McKenzie chose cornerback DJ Hayden in the first round, instead of Sheldon Richardson, Eric Reid, Desmond Trufant, and DeAndre Hopkins. Later, McKenzie selected offensive lineman Menelik Watson in the second round, instead of Le’veon Bell and Travis Kelce. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. Lovable lunatic Sio Moore and Latavius “Tay Train” Murray also hailed from this draft class. The Raiders again limped to 4-12.
A Wind of Change
In 2014, McKenzie struck the “Mother Lode”. Khalil Mack in round one. Derek Carr in round two. Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis, and TJ Carrie in rounds three, four, and seven, respectively. The Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Buffalo Bills all passed on Khalil Mack. Reggie McKenzie would make no such mistake and quickly scooped up Mack.
In round two, the Texans passed on Derek Carr likely because his brother is David Carr who also attended Fresno State and failed to live up to the hype in the NFL. Out of concern over a name, the Texans selected offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, who has a 38.5 grade in 2017 so far, per PFF. McKenzie had his way with the NFL those three glorious days in May. The season, however, was not as glorious. In 2014, the Raiders sank to 3-13. After an 0-4 start, Dennis Allen was fired after a terrible trip across the pond to London. Tony Sparano was promoted from an assistant coaching role and served as the team’s interim head coach the rest of the year. People began calling for Reggie McKenzie’s head, some more drastically than others. McKenzie stayed the course and prepared for 2015.
Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis decided on Jack Del Rio as the new head coach. Davis probably figured if Del Rio can take the Jaguars to the playoffs then he can do anything. Speculations aside, Del Rio has turned out to be a fantastic hire, unless you have fallen off the Raider bandwagon in 2017. In the 2015 Draft, McKenzie and Del Rio snagged Amari Cooper to team up with Carr, and Mario Edwards Jr. to team up with Mack. Cooper also shares the same chaotic capability as McKenzie. He has started the year off horribly after being a two-time pro-bowler. Tight end Clive Walford and G/KR Jon Feliciano were other notable picks. The return began in 2015 with a 7-9 season. That was only the beginning.
A Return to Excellence
In 2016, McKenzie went designer shopping so to speak. Pass rusher Bruce Irvin, bully Kelechi Osemele, turnover specialist Reggie Nelson, and shutdown corner Sean Smith were all added to the roster. It can be seen just from these three signings that McKenzie will either hit it out of the ballpark or will strike out. After selecting “Jack Tatum 2.0 ” a.k.a. Karl Joseph in round one, McKenzie miscalculated, at least currently it seems, by drafting Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. When the season rolled around, the Raiders showed the rest of the NFL they had arrived in 2016. Despite the resurgence, Carr’s untimely injury seemed to have taken the steam out of the team’s comeback as we all know what happened in the playoffs.
The 2017 NFL draft showcased the roller coaster that is McKenzie. In round one, he drafted Gareon Conley, who was under investigation for an alleged rape accusation. Conley was eventually cleared of this accusation. Then, McKenzie drafted a prototypical “freak of nature” in Obi Melifonwu. Then, the “Cali Kid” Eddie Vanderdoes, who underachieved at UCLA. Next, tackle David Sharpe, who had to prove he wasn’t blind. In round five, McKenzie decided on linebacker Marquel Lee; Lee never had an interception in college. McKenzie also signed “some Division III guy” that ended up making the team in Nicholas Morrow, who now, by the way, seems to look like a future starter.
That brings the coaster along to current day. EJ Manuel just started in Week 5 versus Baltimore. The Raiders are 2-3 and almost everyone is panicking. Raider Nation has no need to fear, however, because the man captaining the ship may make mistakes, but he has shown the ability to right the course.