ALAMEDA — Raiders owner Mark Davis couldn’t have been more clear.
Despite constant speculation that the Raiders could soon move on from their current general manager, Reggie McKenzie, that’s just not the case.
Asked whether McKenzie would be around for the entirety of the 2014 season, Davis responded as if the speculation was silly:
“Yeah. Why wouldn’t he be?”
No doubt, a coach was just fired and there’s the potential for heads to roll. But it doesn’t sound like more mid-season changes are imminent — especially if the Raiders start winning under interim head coach Tony Sparano.
What Davis does see, though, is scheme changes. The Raiders’ owner spoke with Sparano Tuesday morning, the specifics not currently being discussed with the media, and the two seem confident enough that things will get better.
How much better remains to be seen, though, and both Davis and McKenzie observed that a coaching search is underway. Davis also noted that the coaching search is McKenzie’s to handle, even if Davis has a larger role than the hiring of Dennis Allen.
Perhaps what’s most important for the Raiders and their quest for continuity is that Davis seems confident that McKenzie has put together a capable roster:
“I think my evaluation is that we do have some players. And we may be running some schemes that are putting a square peg into a round hole and that maybe with some changes in that type of environment we might be able to get something out of these players.”
Football metrics guru, ProFootballFocus, agrees. For the most part, anyway.
They give rookie linebacker Khalil Mack one of the highest grades through four weeks of any defensive player in the league. According to their rankings, tackle Donald Penn is currently an upgrade to former Raiders starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer.
And center Stefen Wisniewski isn’t that far behind the production of Browns’ center Alex Mack, a player many Raiders fans lusted for during the offseason, and the only center in recent memory given the transition tag.
There are bad grades to go around also, but overall, the Raiders aren’t far behind league averages by the top metric analysts. That also doesn’t include a few injuries to key players, cornerback D.J. Hayden had foot surgery during the offseason and linebacker Sio Moore has missed two games since sustaining an ankle injury.
All of these facts support Davis’ feelings about the roster. The record doesn’t.
An 0-4 start to a season, with the toughest schedule in the league, isn’t promising. That’s why the team decided to try a new head coach, one with experience in turning bad teams into playoff teams.
Davis took a few indirect digs, at least it seemed so, at the coaching staff. One of those was in response to whether McKenzie would be judged on the record:
“Reggie’s not coaching the schemes and all that stuff.”
A clearly frustrated Davis was adamant that he’s never once considered firing McKenzie, and isn’t about to. Moreover, he seemed more supportive of McKenzie than anyone you’d hear on the radio, and most people you’d read on Twitter when he said:
“I would say that this year’s draft, number one, I think the first three players in the draft are pretty good darn football players. And that’s with Gabe Jackson, the guard. I think that the results have to show for themselves. I can’t say that anything that he’s done has been great or not-great. But I do believe that we have the players.”
“I think the players believe we have the players, and I think that was an important factor to me to evaluate. That if the players feel that we’ve got great players, or at least players that can play and win, Reggie may be doing maybe a little bit better than maybe some people think.”
If Hayden comes back strong, and tackle Menelik Watson gets his act together, McKenzie could be close to hitting two consecutive home runs. If that happens.
But he’s had a success rate higher than most general managers, as far as drafting goes, and he’s only had one full compliment of picks. Which might be the biggest reason Davis is sticking with him.