OAKLAND, Calif. — Cameras clicked and all seemed copacetic Sunday afternoon, as Raiders owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie were among those posing for pictures an hour or so before things kicked off against the Steelers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
But if reports that surfaced earlier are true, those smiles might have been a bit forced.
At least that of McKenzie.
In what can’t be considered the most breaking of news given the climate surrounding these Raiders since Jon Gruden was hired as head coach (and seemingly everything else) in January, CBSsports.com reported that a front office shake-up will indeed commence at season’s end, beginning with the dismissal of McKenzie.
“I accept that in today’s (media) environment, reports like that are going to come out,” Davis told the Review-Journal on the field before the game. “There are all kinds of rumors and everything else out there. Some are true and some aren’t. When it’s time for me to make an announcement or say something, I will tell you guys. But until then, it’s not fair for guys to be left hanging in the wind.
“I don’t know why it (surfaced Sunday). People’s livelihoods are at stake. It isn’t fair, but that’s what some people’s jobs are. I understand the whole thing. It’s trying to navigate how quickly stories come out today, whether they’re true or not.
“You can either answer them or let it go. I’ve taken the approach to just let them go.”
Said McKenzie when asked about the report: “I have nothing to say.”
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie on @JasonLaCanfora report he'll be dismissed this offseason as part of larger front-office overhaul: "I have nothing to say." Report comes at awkward time; many scouts flown in for meetings this week where they'll discuss prospect evaluations.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) December 9, 2018
The Raiders beat Pittsburgh 24-21 in the most dramatic of ways, first watching quarterback Derek Carr lead an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the final minutes, before Steelers kicker Chris Boswell slipped on the turf and his 40-yard field goal attempt was driven into the line of scrimmage.
Gruden afterward wouldn’t respond to the report regarding McKenzie — “I don’t have any comment on that. We’re going to build this team back. I know that. We’re going to bring the Raiders back,” he said — but to say folks would be surprised if it’s accurate would be like saying people in the 1950s were shocked Elizabeth Taylor was getting married again.
Gruden has spent the entire season cleaning out the house that McKenzie constructed since being named general manager in 2012, and only one has a 10-year contract.
You knew this was occurring sure as House Stark knows that winter is coming.
Relationships between coaches and general managers are never perfect, and we’ve even seen those on Super Bowl-winning teams clash when egos struggle for power.
It’s even more uncommon for both jobs to be held by the same person, except when it’s Bill Belichick in New England because, well, the Patriots are just different in most every way.
You’re talking about one guy assembling a roster, negotiating contracts, managing the salary cap and, yes, coaching the team while generating any level of consistent on-field success.
Gruden might think it’s the best way.
I’m not sure his boss does.
Things are awkward
“I know how tough it is because I lived with a guy like that,” said Davis, referring to his late father, Al. “There are some people who are really dedicated to this game and that’s their lives. It’s a little easier for them. But in today’s day and age, it’s tough to do both the coaching and (overseeing) the personnel without having people you can lean on.
“It’s even tough for just two guys to do it. You have to have a team. I don’t know if it takes a Belichick. Everybody goes about it different ways. (Success) is tough to sustain, and I think you need more than one person working on trying to get that done.”
It will be interesting, then, should McKenzie depart, what structure the Raiders ultimately follow and whom Gruden would hire to work alongside him.
I’m thinking someone who agrees with him a lot … um, all the time.
For now, things are just awkward.
It was this week when team scouts who have been evaluating college players all season flew into Oakland for a series of meetings as preparations are made for all-star games and the NFL combine.
Raleigh McKenzie is one of those scouts who works for his twin brother.
On Sunday, it was reported Reggie McKenzie is soon out as general manager.
“I expect such (reports),” said Davis. “It doesn’t make me angry. What can I do about it? You can’t turn all (media) off … You’re never going to get the last word. Ever. So why get into back-and-forth conversations about things? I expect to be asked about everything now. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows something.”
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.