ATLANTA — Brian Billick has faith that it will work, that the marriage between Jon Gruden the coach and Mike Mayock the general manager can produce successful results for the Raiders, that all it will take to create a winning culture is Mayock understanding the universe he now inhabits.
And what to expect during his morning chats on Mount Gruden.
“One challenge for Mike will be knowing that each day he comes in, Jon is going to (bleep) him, wondering why he doesn’t have enough talent,” Billick said. “Jon is brilliant, but that’s just his way, and if Mike can deal with that, they will be fine.”
Super Bowl LIII is Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Patriots and Rams meet for the Lombardi Trophy, and Mayock in past years might have joined his NFL Network colleagues at a roundtable discussion with media, previewing the matchup and how each thinks the season’s final game will play out.
Mayock also would have been spending his time discussing the NFL draft with all 32 teams.
Now, he cares about just one of them.
Now, the other 31 wouldn’t share a darn thing.
He was hired by the Raiders (um, Gruden) to replace the fired Reggie McKenzie, and with Mayock comes an exceptional reputation for evaluating talent, his well-documented praise of quarterback Blaine Gabbert aside.
It’s the ability — according to those who know Mayock best — to look at a draft eligible player and more often than not determine his long-term worth on the field that sets him apart.
He just sees things others don’t.
“Mike knew every freckle of the top 800 kids every year,” said Steve Mariucci, former 49ers and Lions coach and now an analyst. “He loved studying them, loved grading them. He is meticulous. In that way, this is a great fit, because the Raiders with three (first-round picks) this year are going to dictate a lot of the draft.”
Billick was the coach in Baltimore for nine seasons, including a win in Super Bowl XXXV, and over the years worked alongside such general managers and scouts and player personnel directors as Ozzie Newsome and Frank Gilliam and Scott Studwell and James Harris.
He thinks Mayock is as good as any of them.
But here’s another challenge that awaits: Gruden has hardly offered much proof that he is a man of compromise when it comes to how the Raiders will be constructed and under whose direction decisions will come, and it’s this perception that has those who formerly worked with Mayock most interested.
In other words, how much will Mayock’s opinion matter if Gruden disagrees?
Listening is key
“When I was in Baltimore, our draft room under (then general manager) Ozzie Newsome, who was as good as anyone I’ve known, wasn’t just him sitting around and telling everyone what he thought,” Billick said. “Ozzie listened to others. He was always saying, ‘What do you think? What guys do you like? Go watch this film and tell me what you see.’
“He put good people around him and trusted what they said. Look, at the end of the day, someone always has to make the final decision, but if you listen to others and believe in them, you have a much better chance. Mike does the work. He grinds the tape. He will be at the workouts. He knows talent.”
But there is more to the job than evaluating players, and it’s there — forming the infrastructure of an NFL front office, where the responsibilities of the scouting department will lie, how best to fit so many pieces seamlessly together — that will test Mayock in this, his first time running things.
As much as Gruden will allow, that is.
“I actually think Mike will be really good for Jon,” Mariucci said. “Mike hasn’t had the title of general manager before, but he has certainly been doing the work of one. He and Jon respect each other. They’ll disagree on some things and then they’ll work it out, but they’ll always do what they believe is best for the organization.
“It’s a great acquisition for the Raiders, and I hate them for it, because it means we no longer have Mike with us.”
He’s on Mount Gruden now.
Morning chats should be a gas.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.