Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie hadn’t spent much time with Jack Del Rio before his candidacy to become the team’s new head coach, but they certainly have much in common.
They were both standout linebackers selected in the 1985 NFL draft. They played well in the league and continued working in football after retirement. They were never teammates, though they played a college all-star game called the Japan Bowl in ’85.
Their paths didn’t cross much until recently. They’ve spent significant time together in the two months since Del Rio’s hiring, and have found significant common ground in player preference. It was forged through playing experience and an understanding of what it takes to win games.
“We believe in having a physical football team and I think that starts with the offensive and defensive line,” Del Rio said on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think we both have a healthy respect for what the players go through, what the demands are, and how important it is to get good players.
“He’s a really easy guy to get along with. We communicate, or try to communicate daily. It’s a process that we’re going to work at. Any relationship, you’ve got to work at it, but Reggie is a really good guy.”
Del Rio has influence on player acquisition, though McKenzie still makes the final call on personnel decisions.
The first offseason working together is key, and McKenzie knows it. He’s established an open dialogue with coaches in an attempt to acquire players that fit in with what the new coaching staff is trying to implement.
“The personnel department spent a lot of time with the coaches, identifying the skill sets and player types that fit well schematically,” McKenzie told CSN Bay Area in an interview at the NFL owners meetings. “We want to make sure that we give coaches the tools to do what they want to do.”
There’s been a lot of agreement thus far on how to strengthen the roster, a positive turn early in what much be a productive partnership between coach and executive.
“It’s been great,” McKenzie said. “I mean, really good. We have the same vibe on players, so we often see eye-to-eye.”