McKenzie: 'I like being the underdog'
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NAPA – Reggie McKenzie hears all.

The general manager knows his Raiders are ranked among the NFL’s worst. He’s heard grumblings about a lack of talent and that he’s restructuring this franchise at a snail’s pace. He’s aware this season is supposed to go so poorly that McKenzie might have the first pick in next year’s draft.

McKenzie knows what is being said, and respectfully disagrees with all of it.

His message during Friday’s meeting with the media was a simple one: Go ahead. Count us down and out.

“I like being the underdog,” McKenzie said. “We have our own expectations here, and I believe we’ll reach them.”

McKenzie didn’t set a bar for wins or guaranteed success, yet he believes his Raiders are better in Phase Two of his master plan.

The first step was hiring a new coach in Dennis Allen last year. Since then he’s tried to stock this roster with a hand tied behind his back, waiting for the team to escape salary-cap hell. In such a position, slow and steady is the only way to win a race.

McKenize overhauled the roster with low-profile acquisitions, especially on a defense that should have nine new starters, but believes this team is much better than last year’s group.

“Without a doubt,” McKenzie said. “That’s what comes in time. When you get things going the way you want, good things happen. When you get your coach and you start adding the right players, things start to mesh together.”

He believes this group will bond together during camp and emerge a more competitive team despite so many new faces.

“I’m not curious about this group, I’m eager,” McKenzie said. “I’m eager and excited to see how they play during the regular season.”

McKenzie thinks fans will see the improvement he sees, and believes his Raiders are on the verge of being a good football team.

“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s not too far (away).”