Who will speak loudest for Raiders — Jon Gruden or Reggie McKenzie?

Updated January 11, 2018 - 6:34 pm

They haven’t closed and locked the War Room doors yet, haven’t held conflicting opinions about draft-eligible names on a board or free agent players on film, haven’t stood firm in their disagreements on personnel.

But they will.

It’s as much a certainty as the Raiders soon making Las Vegas home.

It begs the question, then, that when a final decision must be made on the roster — who to draft and who not to, who to sign and who to waive, what contracts need be extended and what ones need be eliminated — which voice between Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie will speak last and loudest?

Who has the ultimate say on things?

Most would surmise the dude who just received $100 million over 10 years.

Yeah. It’s probably the smart bet.

Gruden returned as coach Tuesday and it’s hard to believe he did so not only with bags full of owner Mark Davis’ cash, but with supreme authority when to comes to how the team.

If you’re going to be lured out of the comforts of a television booth after nine years away from coaching, you’re probably asking for money and power.

The company line Tuesday painted a harmonious bond between the new coach and a general manager in McKenzie who has held his position since 2012, and perhaps such a rapport will exist between men cut from the same Lambeau Field cloth.

Gruden and McKenzie had their careers overlap in Green Bay, where front row seats allowed them to observe the working bond between a Hall of Fame general manager in Ron Wolf and a powerful head coach in Mike Holmgren.

The company line Tuesday was that a similarly successful relationship can be shaped in Oakland and eventually Las Vegas, but what is said at a fancy press conference and what happens when those doors are locked are often vastly different realities.

“Jon Gruden is a football guy and our focus will be to make sure everyone in this building is the same way,” McKenzie said. “I’m grinding my teeth right now because we aren’t preparing for a playoff game, and that was the goal.

“But we feel we can get right back in it next year. We’re not going to sit here and wallow and stay upset. We’re going to roll up out sleeves and get to grinding. That’s what Gruden and I both want — get the right players to help this team win.”

McKenzie was the league’s Executive of the Year in 2016 and there is no question the highlight of his draft history occurred two years earlier, when the Raiders began to build the foundation of what they believe will ultimately produce a Super Bowl title — Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis, TJ Carrie.

But other classes under McKenzie haven’t come close to yielding such depth and talent — not one player remains on the roster from his first two drafts — and for this you would think Gruden will now become heavily involved in which names are called for the Raiders in April. That includes deciding which high-priced veterans like Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree and Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith and David Amerson stay and go.

“I love the Raiders, and most of all, I love to win,” Gruden said. “I am going to do everything I can. No guarantees, no promises, but I want to win. I look forward to working with Reggie and his staff. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We are going to be united, we are going to work hard, and we are going to assemble the best team possible.”

This was, Davis insisted, how he envisioned things working for years — Gruden coaching the talent that McKenzie assembled. But you’re also not paying someone nine figures and limiting his sway as to who those players are on the field.

Gruden is all-in on this job and would appear to own the majority of leverage.

Things could absolutely work. There’s nothing to say Gruden-McKenzie won’t fit as perfectly as Holmgren-Wolf once did in Green Bay.

But they’re going to disagree.

It happens everywhere, and someone always speaks last and loudest.

“They’re working their arrangement out,” Davis said. “They’ll figure it out.”

It’s the company line and, for now, they’re sticking to it.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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