According to Hue Jackson, Al Davis once told him, "Hue, trust your players, not your plays." That begs the question, what happens when you can't trust your players? The answer: You hire Reggie McKenzie to be the General Manager and he promptly fires Hue Jackson. With that, the McKenzie era has begun in Oakland.
In his first act as General Manager, McKenzie has terminated head coach Hue Jackson. Now, you might just want to leave your jaw in your lap because if Hue is out, then anyone else is fair game. The firing of Jackson, while controversial, fires a clear warning shot across the bow of the Raider incumbents. Expect change. Expect a whole piggy bank of change.
So, who's the next head coach?
First up: Jon Gruden. He has ties to Green Bay, runs the right system, loves the Raiders, and said he'd love to come back. Problem? McKenzie just fired one coach with a big ego. (Sorry Jon, love ya!) Next up: current Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. Without too much detail, I don't see this one happening. Philbin has the luxury of coaching under McCarthy, who is a great offensive mind. Packer QB coach Tom Clements? Well he certainly looks the part and who can argue with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Speaking of Flynn, isn't he a free agent? Back to that later.
Gruden, Philbin, and Clements are all West Coast Offense guys, and Carson Palmer is, well, not a West Coast guy. Hmmm. The Raiders don't have many draft picks this year. Who holds the record for most TD passes in one game by a Packer? Two hints: Not Favre, not Rodgers.
Without question, McKenzie's number one priority will be to fix the defense. The 2011 Oakland defense is the fourth highest paid defense in the NFL. That same defense finished 29th in total yards, tied for 30th in points per game, and was the worst fourth quarter defense in football.
Oakland's defensive approach will change dramatically under McKenzie and Jackson. A popular choice for defensive coordinator as well as head coach is current Green Bay Assistant Head Coach and inside linebackers coach, Winston Moss. Moss will be entering his 25th season as an NFL player and coach. In 1993, as a player, he led the Raiders in tackles on a team that advanced to the AFC divisional playoffs and earned the Ed Block Courage Award.
So could we see Moss as the head man and Clements running the offense? Doesn't sound too bad, right?
If Moss is unavailable or gets the head job, McKenzie could look to current Green Bay coaches Joe Whitt Jr. or Darren Perry as the Raiders' defensive coordinator. Whitt has been with the Packers since 2008 and is currently cornerbacks coach. Perry was DB coach in Oakland and receives partial credit for the development of Nnamdi Asomugha. Perry is the current safeties coach in Green Bay. However, both Perry and Whitt are a bit of a reach for defensive coordinator at this point.
The hiring of Moss could also signify the rebirth of the 3-4 in Oakland. McKenzie was a 3-4 linebacker during his playing days.
It's safe to assume McKenzie will replace most of the current defensive staff. One exception may be defensive backs coach Rod Woodson. Woodson is a rookie coach and Hall of Fame player. He was given the unenviable task of coaching Oakland's depleted and/or inexperienced cornerbacks. Woodson also played for Dom Capers in Pittsburgh from 1992-1994. Capers is the current defensive coordinator in Green Bay which could signal Woodson sticking in Oakland.
When McKenzie's hiring became official, fantasies erupted about all the wonderful talent McKenzie would bring with him from Green Bay. As it turns out, McKenzie did his job well. So well, in fact, almost all of Green Bay's top tier talent is already locked up with a few notable exceptions.
Green Bay has a stable of productive wide receivers and one of their best will be available. How does Moore, Ford, Heyward-Bey, Murphy, and Nelson sound to you? Jordy Nelson was selected in 2008 with the 36th overall pick and has grown to be one of the Packers' most dangerous weapons. He finished the 2011 season with 68 receptions, 1,263 yards, for an awesome 18.6 per reception not to mention the 15 touchdowns. While this may be a departure from McKenzie's home grown beliefs, he may need a few of "his guys" in the building. My guess is that Nelson will be a tough sell and stays in Green Bay.
Next up would be tight end Jermichael Finley. Signing Finley will require a silver and black dump truck full of cash. Instead, look for McKenzie to seek out his very own gigantic pass catching tight end. The Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team with five tight ends on the roster, the Raiders have four which leaves room for one more.
Packers' defensive back, Jarret Bush, isn't a household name and doesn't even crack the top 75 on most free agent lists but he is a solid DB and an excellent special teamer. Bush is a Bay Area native from nearby Vacaville and has 130 tackles and three interceptions in 94 games (seven starts). Bush will come cheap and would be an instant upgrade over Lito Sheppard or Chris Johnson. At the very least Bush will provide solid depth to Oakland's shallow secondary.
Speaking of Bush, what happens to Michael? McKenzie has the new school approach to running backs. The current Green Bay roster has three running backs. Two are un-drafted and the other a sixth round draft pick. However, I don't think McKenzie will just let Michael Bush walk out the door. He should franchise tag him and then sign a couple UDFA running backs to battle for the third spot.
Who stays and who goes? Tyvon Branch is a priority for the Raiders, but McKenzie won't over pay in the Raider tradition to keep Branch. It is possible the Raiders might lose Branch to a team willing to pay him big money. Branch is the Raiders' leading tackler and one of the few bright spots in a gloomy secondary. Hue has continually mentioned the importance of Branch and hopefully Branch will buy what McKenzie is selling.
McKenzie's 2012 Raiders are going to have quite a few new faces, which means plenty will have to go. And with the new faces, a lot of the current roster will be moving on. McKenzie has an eye for talent. He and Jackson will seek out and focus on filling the roster with "team" guys. There are only about fifteen to twenty players on the current Raider roster that are locks to return.
Trading draft picks away in Oakland is officially over. Green Bay during McKenzie's tenure retained more draft picks than any other organization. McKenzie has a unique eye for talent and will harvest picks carefully. As the head of player personnel he rarely signed high priced free agents or over-paid to keep free agents with no one guy bigger than the team.
The Raiders have traded away most of the picks for the 2012 draft but that isn't all bad news. The Packers currently have 16 un-drafted players on their active roster. This group includes John Kuhn, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Ryan Grant, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Frank Zombo, and Jarrett Bush. McKenzie has made a habit of finding quality un-drafted players and developing them into household names, a talent that will come in handy this year in Oakland.
McKenzie currently has two draft picks to work with, fifth and sixth round selections. The Raiders are likely to receive several compensatory picks in 2012 for loss of free agents. There are a total of thirty-two compensatory picks awarded in rounds three through seven, but the formula for awarding picks is proprietary. The formula is thought to be heavily weighted by the salary of free agents lost and gained.
In 2011 the Raiders lost Asomugha, Robert Gallery, Zach Miller, Thomas Howard, and Bruce Gradkowski. The combined contracts including signing and roster bonuses are 118.7 million. The Raiders signed Kevin Boss to a four year sixteen million dollar contract. In the 2011 draft the Panthers were awarded three picks for the loss of Julius Peppers; he received a six year eighty four million dollar contract. The Panthers received an additional third, sixth, and seventh round pick. Compensatory picks cannot be traded or packaged with other picks in a trade. The Raiders will likely be awarded a third round pick and a combination of three additional picks in rounds four through seven.
I predict McKenzie will use these picks, combined with UDFA's, to rebuild the Raiders' secondary, fill gaps in a 3-4 system, and add depth at running back, O-line, Linebacker, and a future Carson Palmer replacement, similar to Green Bay's Matt Flynn. McKenzie will look for a highly intelligent, accurate, chip on his shoulder and slightly arrogant developmental project.
While the future in Oakland is unclear, Raider fans have a lot to be excited about. All signs point to McKenzie being an excellent hire and at this point there is no reason to believe he and Hue Jackson won't make an excellent team. Mani-Pedis for everyone!!
--Barnavicious is a Guest Contributor special to Thoughts From the Dark Side.
Rumored that Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles is interviewing for the HC position. As far as I can tell he has no ties to McKenzie and his statement of wanting "his man" I assumed he meant someone he had ties to so I can't see it happening.
@nilbymouth Yeah. I believe that the Bowles interview could also be for the DC position as well as HC. He does this interview now so that if he does get who he wants for HC, he could still hire Bowles as DC since he had already interviewed him. Bowles also satisfies the Rooney Rule in case the main guy he wants is a white guy.
I am convinced that Oakland will be moving in the direction of a 3-4 defense this upcoming season. Bowles is with Miami, which runs a 3-4 defense. McKenzie was hired away from GB, who runs a 3-4 defense. What if the coach that is at the top of McKenzie's list is Dom Capers? Capers was the HC for two brand new expansion teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans. I don't fault him for struggling with the Texans as a brand new expansion team, especially when their prize pick, Tony Boselli, ended up never even playing a down for them. However he did lead the Panthers to the NFC title game in their 2nd season in existence.
What if McKenzie's plan to get Capers as HC and then get either Moss as Assist. HC/DC or perry as DC? he could also bring in GB QB coach Tom Clements as OC and he could keep Saunders so that they could work together since Saunders is a vet OC and play-caller.
If Capers is hired as HC then my understanding is Moss cannot be hired as DC without the Packers permission as because he has the "Assistant Head Coach" title he can only take a Head Coach position without needing the Packers permission.
@nilbymouth If GB blocks us from interviewing Moss, then Perry would likely the the pick then to be DC under Capers, I would think. Would Assist. HC/DC be considered a promotion for Moss or no?
@nilbymouth Capers was also the DC that helped GB transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense.....
I read an interview about Hue Jackson's reaction to be fired and he sounds like a jealous ex-gf that just got dumped.
is it me or does mckenzie kinda favors nipsey russell fromt he wiz. nonetheless, reg sounds like he means business, and the one thing he emphasized that stood out to me was "he wants players". that could mean the end of a lot of current raiders that was living off the "big al scholarship" program. im kinda shocked, being they share the same agent, but im also pumped though. this has been long over due nation! and what i like is we dont have far to go to FIRST take this division back, then compete in the playoffs. we need to keep palmer. everyone is high on the kid from green bay, but the one thing i give him is he almost beat pats last year, and put up monstrous numbers against the lions. now were not green bay, but reg was around him and knows what they have. i dont think we can pass up on palmer just yet, but i cant wait till we hire a coach so we as fans can get a direction on where this is headed! GO RAIDERS!!!!!!!
I don't think having the same agent even came into the equation. Sure he may be little more familiar with Jackson from having that connection, but that is where it ends. It's like me hiring a shop manager for my store because we share the same bank manager!
Jordy Nelson is also locked up long term by the Packers. He was signed to a new contract this season.
With the firing of Hue Jackson, I am expecting the release of some of the over-priced, under performing players to free up some cap space so we can be active in free agency. I wouldn't be surprised if guys like Seymour, Routt, Huff are just some of the guys that are on the chopping block....
Trouble is, releasing how many of these players will actually give much more cap space? A good chunk of most of these guys contracts will still have to be paid and end up as dead money (as would be the case with trading these guys also).
@nilbymouth@JarrodRollins I believe all the dead money would be the guaranteed money and I think the bonuses would still count against the cap. Not 100% sure on all that though. I think we need to make some trades for draft picks and that will also free up cap space. As would restructuring contracts.
@nilbymouth Jerry Jones wanted him, but Huff chose to stay in Oakland. Maybe Jerry Jones would overpay for Huff??
McFadden may get one 2nd round pick, but I highly doubt any more than that. He is just too injury prone if any team to gamble much more that. Plus if McKenzie works like the Packers there is no way any RB gets signed to a substantial conract.
Seymour again with his age, I would be surprised to receive any thing higher than third. A lot of people thought we overpaid a couple years ago when we traded a first for him. Also he would have to really re-construct his deal again to make him tradeable really.
Palmer is a big question. Will he be willingly to re-construct his again? Will he pack a sad and want to retire again? Who knows! I guess if he were to retire again his contract would be off the books at least.
Routt maybe a second, but more likely a third. He has shown glimpses of being a top CB and then he gets blown on a big play. He is also our top CB in a weak position so would you want to trade your top CB away? I would prefer to see him stay and hopefully he will re-construct his contract again also.
Huff I don't think would garner much. A third maybe? If that. Look when he was just a Free Agent, how many teams were chasing after him? Pretty much nil.
@nilbymouth I'd consider trading McFadden, who has a cap hit of $6.7M, we probably could get two 2nd round picks for him. Then we could sign Lynch to a deal that was a lot less than the 6-year, $60M that we signed DMac to as a rookie.
Seymour is another option to trade, but he a leader of the defense. Ithink he'll restructure his deal, again. He has a cap hit of $15M, he is would be a must to trade or restructure. If traded for draft picks, we might get a 2nd round pick for him since he made the pro bowl this past season.
Palmer is a likely candidate to a restructured deal with his $12.5M cap hit.
Routt, $10M cap hit, or Huff, $5.3M cap hit, could be traded as well. They could get like 2nd or 3rd round picks.
Who can we trade though? We have a few options like Murphy or Schilens for example but what will we get for them in return and these players salaries are on the lower scale. Other players may get a decent pick in return but will free up not much cap due to the cap hits.
Hopefully 3-4 compensatory picks can be acquired for the loss of Nnamdi, Gallery, Miller and Thomas Howard and these picks can be turned into players that can stay healthy and contribute straight away.
... Wouldn't at all be surprised to se some restructurings though, and perhaps a couple of trades as well (especially to garner some draft picks)!
A good thing is his emphasis on hard workers, students of the game, fighters, and tough, dominant players - stay away from prima donnas, we need our team to play consistently as a team again!
I heard that to but I don't know if it was meant directly that the decision was made from Mark Davis or anything. I think McKenzie meant when he said that, was that he did not intend to have Jackson as his HC if he were to have signed with the Raiders.
@JarrodRollins Is there a transcript somewhere? Or do you have a link?
Wonder who made (or advised) the decision? Wolf? Madden?
At the 3:20 a reporter asks him about giving Hue Jackson a year and that is when he states that the decision was before he got there. He also did not specify who ultimately made the choice to fire Hue Jackson.
Jason La Canfora stated that both Mark Davis and John Madden had been in contact with players and other people about Hue Jackson and that obviously did not go well for Hue Jackson.
Watching the replay of the news conference introducing Reggie McKenzie. He looks and sounds like he'd be a beast of a GM.
Very good article Barnavicious! Good break down of the situation (naturally without the newly firing of HJ), and will be good to see what happens!
No matter how you feel about the firing, Silver and Black has a very interesting time coming up! I hope Reggie breaks a little with his philosophy about overpaying, because a potential 3-4 change would require a couple of serious contracts (especially Soliai!), and with only a few draft picks it would be a good year to get in some good veteran guys to support what he will establish!
Dizzle - will you be able to do a break down of the potential OC / DC / HC candidates at some point? Would be an interesting read! Would like to see Al Saunders staying though, think he can be a really solid OC!
I think it was almost inevitable. I have seen reports that numerous players and coaches went to Mark Davis to complain about Jackson power tripping and they played at the end of the season like they were lost and not playing for him. I hope Al Saunders is promoted to OC to at least keep some consistency.
Also in regards to Winston Moss his value may be even deeper when you consider he was part of the coaching staff when the Packers transitioned from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 defense.
I wonder how Palmer reacts to this though? Another retirement on the cards? If so let's bring in Flynn. Finley could be an interesting one also, but I think Finley will be wanting more than what McKenzie will be willingly to pay (same reason I saw Finley leaving the Packers to begin with). I would love Nelson! I am pretty sure though that Nelson re-signed a contract extension this season.
You need to update your article a little more. McKenzie and Hue Jackson will not make an excellent team, as you pointed out in paragraph 1, Hue was fired.
I'm kind of rooting for The Chin, with Moss to DC. It'd be ... odd to jettison one rookie HC only to hire a rookie to replace him.
@LeviDamien what are your initial gut feelings Levi? I think this is bad decision.