Reggie McKenzie and the QB position

Carson Palmer. Believe it or not, Carson Palmer was the starting quarterback under contract upon general manager Reggie McKenzie’s initial hiring as the new Oakland Raiders “boss” in the 2012 offseason.

McKenzie came into a unique situation in Oakland. At the time, then head coach Hue Jackson had pleaded with newly assigned owner Mark Davis to trade for the retired quarterback. Jackson flexed his Cincinnati Bengals history with Palmer as the key belief that this was “the greatest trade in football.” Update, it wasn’t.

So essentially Palmer came by way of Mark Davis, by way of his dad Al Davis inserting Hue Jackson as the head coach before passing away. Hard to keep up, isn’t it?

The QB Carousel

Ultimately McKenzie stood by the veteran Palmer at the quarterback helm in his first season as GM. McKenzie’s first draft was obstructed by the Palmer trade and other past moves. McKenzie didn’t even have a 1st or 2nd round draft pick in 2012.

There was more organizational quarterback movement before McKenzie came into the mix; his standing backup was Terrelle Pryor. Pryor was obtained by Al Davis in the 2011 supplemental draft as he surrendered a third-round pick. Between Palmer and Pryor, it was hard to see McKenzie’s vision on quarterbacks since neither were his selections but soon we would see his attempts to address the position.

Palmer had success but ultimately the team wasn’t talented enough around him to maximize his play or contract. Palmer was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the following off-season by McKenzie. McKenzie’s next move was a trade for backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The two shared a history during their previous stints with the Packers, although Flynn was acquired from the Seahawks at the time. Flynn had a severely disappointing off-season camp and pre-season that lost him the job he was brought in for.

Pryor won the starting job for the 2013 season which was entertaining because of his elite athleticism, but quarterback clearly wasn’t the NFL position for him. Flynn was released mid-season giving way to undrafted rookie free-agent Matt McGloin to take on the backup role. McGloin would appear as a capable player in moments during the 2013 campaign behind Pryor and even started multiple games. He took on a bit of a hero role in Oakland with his underdog background while being a walk-on quarterback at Penn State and undrafted to the Raiders. The fun story-line would grow sour fast as the Raiders continued a never-ending search to find a franchise quarterback.

Wilson, remember him?

Here’s a name many might not even remember, Tyler Wilson. Wilson was drafted by McKenzie in the 4th round of the 2013 draft. His tenure was merely a whisper of failure as he was released at the beginning of the season shortly after the 53-man roster was adjusted.

Then came the 2014 off-season and what seemingly had become a routine quarterback trade under McKenzie. Pryor was traded to the Seahawks a year after the Raiders traded with them for Matt Flynn’s services. The Raiders were down to just McGloin at quarterback until McKenzie… wait for it… traded yet again for a veteran quarterback in Matt Schaub.

Schaub was nothing but a plug-in and fill quarterback until McKenzie could draft a franchise quarterback to groom, enter the 2014 NFL draft. Patience proved to be rewarding as the Raiders chose Khalil Mack in the first round and watched Derek Carr fall to them in the second round. Carr was drafted by McKenzie and is now the face of the franchise as a four-year starter.

McKenzie then needed to find a backup replacement besides McGloin who was still hanging around for what had seemed much longer than it was. Doing what he does best, McKenzie executed a quarterback related trade to move up in the draft to select Connor Cook in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Cook has had a small window of competitive playing time outside of preseason play and his underwhelming numbers mirror the chaos the team was in. After Carr broke his leg, McGloin was then inserted into the starting lineup for the team’s final regular season game in Denver and he too got hurt. Cook, who was more often than not a healthy scratch on game days, was now forced onto the field mid-game against one of the leagues best defenses led by Von Miller. The following week, Cook attempted to the lead the Raiders against an even fiercer Texans defense that made Cook look like a third string QB in Oakland’s lone standing playoff game since 2002.

The off-season addition in 2017 when McGloin finally left was EJ Manuel. Manuel was a former first-round pick that had ties with working with newly promoted Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing, as both came from the Bills organization.

The QB position moving forward…

The job has to change for McKenzie as newly acquired head coach Jon Gruden comes in. McKenzie has had the luxury of making quarterback decisions with a first time owner who gave him the ability to operate. McKenzie also had two defensive minded coaches under him this tenure in Dennis Allen and Jack Del Rio respectively. Their input you could suggest wasn’t in high regard. That’s likely going to change with someone of the offensive pedigree of Gruden.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Cook as he slid down to third string and Manuel got the playing time when Derek Carr was injured during the 2017 season. Gruden gushed about Cook prior to the 2016 draft as an analyst, we’ll find out what he thinks of him now on his roster.

Manuel is a serviceable backup when it comes to NFL standards but you’d think they’d want to upgrade whether it be by polishing Cook under Gruden’s tutelage or using free agency. I’d think if McKenzie works well with Gruden they can find a means to only have two quarterbacks on the roster, therefore the backup role will be very important to upgrade in my opinion.

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