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Graney: Raiders’ new GM straightforward about his goal

Updated September 8, 2022 - 2:22 pm

Used to be, Dave Ziegler could plan his day in a relatively seamless manner: A, B, C, D and E.

“Now I might only get A and B done because X, Y and Z come up,” Ziegler said. “You just have more people within the organization that for one reason or another need some of your time.

“Being able to prioritize and stay on the right path is really important.”

Such a walkway is pointed in just one direction for Ziegler, new general manager of the Raiders who arrived from New England with coach Josh McDaniels: toward what both hope will ultimately culminate in a Super Bowl title.

Ziegler was trained well with the Patriots over nearly a decade. Assistant director of pro scouting. Director of pro personnel. Assistant director of player personnel. Director of player personnel.

But this is his first journey into running an organization. With it comes a definite level of pressure. It’s also competitive in nature for the 45-year-old.

He’s certain everyone within the Raiders is intent on following the same vision, that there isn’t a person in the building not aiming for the same goal.

Building a roster

“It’s a good pressure,” Ziegler said. “For us as an organization and coaching staff and scouting department and for me especially as the person in charge of personnel. To build a roster that can compete. There is an everyday pressure I feel, but that’s the kind of juice of the job — having that pressure on yourself.”

It’s different building a roster now as compared to those pre-salary cap days when some teams merely spent big and accumulated high-end talent and depth for years.

Now, it’s the business of — take this year, for instance — putting together a team of 53 players while adhering to a $208.2 million cap. But the needs, according to Ziegler, remain relatively the same.

Still need to be good up front. Still need a quarterback you trust can win games. Still need someone who can rush the opposing quarterback. Still need people who can cover in an NFL defined by high-octane passing offenses.

Ziegler’s strategical preference: that you build through the draft in a cost-effective way (guys on rookie contracts) while splurging here and there.

He has done his share of the latter thus far.

Davante Adams. Chandler Jones. Maxx Crosby. Derek Carr. Hunter Renfrow.

Through trades or free-agent signings or mere extensions to those already in the fold, there has been enough spending to define a win-now mantra Ziegler and McDaniels have obviously embraced.

“A lot of variables go into it,” Ziegler said. “Where are you from a budget standpoint? How old is your team? Those things impact how you build.”

Former teammates

His relationship with McDaniels dates nearly three decades, when both played for John Carroll University — a Division III program in University Heights, Ohio. But such a bond doesn’t mean they always agree when it comes to roster decisions. They don’t.

Ziegler’s take: that a key to the relationship working is always challenging one another, a trust built over time when things don’t always need to be harmonious. But he said there is rarely a final decision made where they aren’t in agreement.

“He’s a forward thinker,” McDaniels said of Ziegler. “He’s thinking about things that maybe I’m not thinking about and vice versa. And then we have communication daily, multiple times. He’s got an agenda every day. I think (the relationship) is going to evolve with us in these new roles.

“We’re trying to work on what we are doing on the football field and then constantly talking about the roster and what we can try to do to make it the best we can make it.”

It’s a daunting task.

Not as simple as A, B, C, D and E.

But the walkway is pointed in just one direction.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. 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.

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