The Oakland Raiders informed Reggie McKenzie of his ousting on Monday, but this has been coming since the day Jon Gruden arrived.
This isn’t Reggie McKenzie’s fault. But, as Cris Carter once famously said, make sure you have a fall guy.
Jon Gruden and the Raiders were listening intently.
On Monday, McKenzie was fired as the Oakland general manager after six seasons on the job. In reality, McKenzie was neutered back on Jan. 6, when Gruden was hired on a 10-year, $100 million contract.
A pact with those figures doesn’t only represent money and security, but unending power. Gruden knows he can say and do as he pleases with no fear of repercussions. When there’s a decade to go on a deal that rich, nobody is looking for divorce papers.
McKenzie doesn’t leave Oakland without blame for the current 3-10 wreck. His drafts were spotty. This is especially true after the first round, with six hauls only netting Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson. Both of those selections were made in McKenzie’s signature class of 2014, which was headlined by Khalil Mack.
Of course, Gruden had no time for Mack. He opined openly about Mack’s willingness to show up amid a contract dispute, one that ultimately got him traded to the Chicago Bears. As it turns out, Mack has been the crowning jewel of a phenomenal defense, while the Raiders can’t stop the proverbial nosebleed.
Case in point: Mack has 10 sacks this season despite missing two games. The Raiders have 11.
Gruden also forced the trade of Amari Cooper. The 2015 first-round choice notched 280 receiving yards and a touchdown in six games under Gruden before going to Dallas. With the Cowboys, Cooper has 509 yards and a half-dozen scores over the same span.
In essence, McKenzie helped build two NFC power in the Cowboys and Bears with an assist from Gruden.
Only two years ago, the Raiders were 12-4 and a playoff team. Carr looked like a bonafide franchise quarterback. Mack was a generational talent to build the defense around. Cooper was the deep threat that would have made Al Davis proud.
McKenzie built that, only to have his sandcastles torn down and kicked into the ocean by Gruden. Now, the former is without a job, although he’ll find a new one in short order should he want to.
Left behind him is a team in tatters. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in the near future, Gruden has nine years and $90 million that is increasingly feeling like a life sentence, and Mark Davis is nervously sitting in his owner’s box hoping for the best.
Truth be told, Gruden should sit in there instead. After all, he owns the team.