Forget everything else you see, hear or read about the Oakland Raiders signing Aldon Smith. It will miss the greater point, which is this:
For the first time ever, Reggie McKenzie has shown that he has a sense of humor.
And not just a subtle, impish sense of humor either, but a Moe-Howard-finger-in-the-eye-up-to-the-second-knuckle sense of humor, the kind that makes you whistle in admiration, the kind that separate comedians like Doug Stanhope and Frankie Boyle from the rest of the field.
Aldon Smith to the Raiders is the unthinkable, the you-didn’t-go-there signing nobody could have seen coming and that most executives wouldn’t have dared. And McKenzie, who keeps his personality in a bank vault, broke the largest number of molds by doing it.
Oh, he had to get clearance from owner Mark Davis, but Davis could be imagined doing this, if only as a legacy move from his father’s book of player acquisition.
And Jack Del Rio, the head coach, has some rogue in him, going back to his days at Hayward High School. He could see Smith as the axe and the team’s defense the block of wood that made him infamous in Jacksonville.
But McKenzie? He’s NFL old school, a stay-in-your-lane-and-let-patience-be-your-guide sort, at least if his work in Oakland so far is a guide. Signing a player with Smith’s history, let alone his likelihood of a league suspension, is a thigh-slapping, commode-hugging howler.
Then there’s the timing. A day after the latest Patriot-based hilarity, a week after the league got groined in a court of law for being lousy at dean of students work, and a few weeks after he was finally banished in a fit of pique by Jed York – genius. Pure comedic genius.
And finally, there’s the fact that Smith made his name, fame and shame as a 49er, the team that is quietly but very definitely hoping to help usher the Raiders down I-5 to a new pleasure palace in Carson. If Smith turns his life around, becomes a megaproductive player again, or most ardently hoped by Oakland fans, both, it will be a delicious/malicious irony that York and Trent Baalke can reflect upon through those quiet moments between angry fan e-mails.
That’s why Aldon Smith the Raider is important. If you think there’s some morality play to be exercised here, forget it. The NFL is the most amoral company this side of FIFA, with the only difference being that the NFL does its brutish work in one country while FIFA has 195 at its disposal.
But back to Reggie McKenzie. If signing Aldon Smith isn’t a sure sign that he is ready to headline at Cobb’s, there is none. This is pure genius, at least as close to it as the NFL gets.
Okay, with the single exception of Bill Belichick wearing a old Shakey’s Pizza shirt, Richard Nixon walking shorts and flip-flops to his first postgame presser. Now THAT actually is genius . . . until he goes Metallica tank top and Speedo in Week 5.