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I asked for mailbag questions over the course of this Tuesday, and the response makes one thing clear: Raiders fans are looking toward the future.
I guess 1-11 and 52-0 will do that to a fan base, even with the 49ers invading O.Co Coliseum on Sunday. The Raiders have a big offseason ahead, one defined by Reggie McKenzie’s future with the club, a new head coach, the expected release of several veterans, the acquisition of more and, at this point, the No. 1 pick in the draft.
There’s certainly more intrigue in all that, as the franchise goes through yet another house cleaning. There’s an uncertain future ahead, but we’ll discuss it presently in this edition of Raiders mailbag:
Q. How seriously should we take these Harbaugh rumors? And would he be worth trading picks for? -- @jessaguirre33
A: At this point, let’s keep them as a fun conversation piece. There are far too many variables to say he’s absolutely coming to Oakland or that the Raiders have no chance. The 49ers are still in the playoff hunt and, while it’s widely reported that Harbaugh won’t be coaching in Santa Clara next year, he remains under contract through 2015. For up-to-date info on his tenure with the 49ers, read insider Matt Maiocco’s Harbaugh FAQ report.
Raiders owner Mark Davis must decide whether to retain McKenzie and the personnel department, which will have an influence on the head coach hired. Or, an attractive, big-name head coach could sway the GM’s fate. See why this is so complicated?
If I’m the Raiders, I would not trade draft picks for a head coach. I want young talent, and lots of it. If I’m Harbaugh, I don’t want my future team weakened by lost draft picks, especially a franchise like Oakland with many holes to fill. My understanding is that Harbaugh would have to approve a trade and waiting for the 49ers fire him seems to be a better play for his future team.
There’s a lot we don’t know. Here’s why it might be a good fit: The Raiders hired Harbaugh in the early 2000s, and the 49ers head coach still speak reverentially of late owner Al Davis. The Raiders are in need of a quick culture change, and Harbaugh could certainly provide that. Joining the Raiders would also keep Harbaugh’s family in the Bay Area, where he graduated high school and has coached since 2007.
The Raiders also have a prospective franchise quarterback in Derek Carr for Harbaugh to mold. They have plenty of 2015 salary cap space, precious few long-term contracts and should have high draft picks, allowing Harbaugh to help mold this roster.
One thing is certain: It will be interesting to see how the Harbaugh situation plays out.
Q: What do the Raiders do with the potential first overall pick? -- @D_Readd
A: Trade it. No question. The Raiders have so many holes to fill, though quarterback isn’t one of them. Oregon signal caller Marcus Mariota is expected to be the first pick, so the Raiders would hope he has great pre-draft workouts and a team falls in love with his talent and decides to pay a king’s ransom for the top selection.
I wouldn’t go too far down. The Raiders need an immediate impact player, guys generally found in the upper portions of the first round. The team is realistically a few years away from contention – assuming correct decisions are made – so multiple first and second round picks would help the rebuilding process.
In short, put trust in Derek Carr, leverage No. 1 overall and stockpile picks.
Q: Do you think Reggie (McKenzie) is gone next year? -- @cw2147
A: That’s up to owner Mark Davis. The last time he spoke publicly, Davis told NFL Network that McKenzie is not an “interim GM.”
Just before a 24-20 victory over Kansas City that stands as the Raiders’ only win, Davis said that McKenzie drafted well in 2014 and has set the team up for future success.
“We are in really good shape, based on the way Reggie put all the contracts together and everything else," Davis told NFL Network. "We're not settled with a lot of upside-down situations anymore. The situation he walked into originally was pretty tough. The deconstruction phase of that went very, very well. I think we're a pretty desirable place for (a head coach) that wants to come in and build."
A big-name head coach could, however, want a different personnel man. That could sway Davis’ opinion. McKenzie is also well respected in the NFL, and he could find someone of quality who wants to work with him.
Bottom line: McKenzie has done some things well and hurt the Raiders with some choices. Ultimately, Raiders are 9-35 in his tenure. There are too many variables to say anything definitive at this point, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.