The Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen on Monday night, which leaves one less person to blame when things go wrong.
The Raiders are 0-4 through a relatively easy portion of the schedule, and while an interim coach would get credit for turning things around, he certainly won’t get faulted for his inheritance.
That leaves general manager Reggie McKenzie without much protection. Ire will head up the food chain if the Raiders continue free falling. That’s realistic considering their on-field struggles and an insane strength of schedule, which could put McKenzie’s job at risk.
NFL sources have indicated to CSN Bay Area that McKenzie is safe for the time being, through the season most likely, but for how long after that?
Owner Mark Davis deemed Allen’s hiring a mistake, and excuses for a lack of talent are running dry.
First it was the deconstruction phase, where McKenzie dropped a nuclear bomb on the roster to get right with the salary cap. It worked, and left the Raiders $60-plus million in cap space this offseason.
With the rare exception, the money used on free-agent talent this offseason hasn’t been well spent.
The $8 million given to quarterback Matt Schaub – plus the sixth-rounder traded to Houston for his rights – became a waste after he lost a starting job to rookie Derek Carr.
So was the $6 million given to Matt Flynn – plus draft picks to Seattle in the trade – last season after he lost out to Terrelle Pryor who is no longer in the NFL.
Those players, as we know, are veteran imports. McKenzie believes in building through the draft, and his picks haven’t yet established a foundation for the future.
Sure, you could argue that his 2012 class deserves a pass because he didn’t have a first or second round pick. My counter: Only linebacker Miles Burris and guard Tony Bergstrom remain from that draft class. Burris is hard worker, but Bergstrom, McKenzie’s first pick, hasn’t been active since his rookie year.
The 2013 class, however, is really working against the current front office. First-round cornerback DJ Hayden can’t get on the field. Second-round offensive tackle Menelik Watson remains a backup. Fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson was the highest draft pick cut after last season’s camp. There are some productive players in the group – tight end Mychal Rivera and linebacker Sio Moore chief among them – but missing on top draft picks will haunt GMs down the road.
The 2014 draft class is a point in McKenzie’s favor. There are several strong contributors from this group. Quarterback Derek Carr, who, if we’re being honest, fell into the Raiders’ lap at No. 36 overall, has great potential. Linebacker Khalil Mack is a difference maker. Guard Gabe Jackson and cornerback TJ Carrie are already major contributors.
Will McKenzie be around to take another hack at the NFL draft? The Raiders will be right with the salary cap for the foreseeable future, but will he be able to spend that savings?
The development of his draftees will determine that. Hayden, Mack and Carr will be focal points of that evaluation, but one has to take the entire body of work before determining McKenzie’s fate.
Raiders owner Mark Davis has a far greater affinity for McKenzie than Allen. The Raiders chain of command was strictly linear, with Allen reporting to McKenzie and McKenzie reporting to Davis.
Firing Allen during the season wasn’t hard. Results were disastrous and there was no personal connection there, making it a business transaction.
McKenzie was also Davis’ first big hire. Generally speaking, a boss doesn’t want that person to fail and reflect poorly on their decision-making skills.
The next hire offers another chance to get the Raiders back on track. Sources in and around the organization have said that Davis prefers a big fish, and will certainly aim high in search of the next head coach.
For the time being, McKenzie’s shields are down. He needs help from his acquisitions to get them back up.