Mark Davis signals new Raiders dynamic

ALAMEDA — Dennis Allen spoke almost only to general manager Reggie McKenzie. Tony Sparano spoke to Mark Davis as much as he did with McKenzie.

The difference in politicking did neither any favors. Veteran head coach Jack Del Rio — who has held a relationship with McKenzie since both were drafted into the NFL in 1985 — will have a little more say than either Sparano or Allen.

Davis said:

“I think they’ve got to work together. I would ask them, how they feel it’s working. They’re very comfortable with the way the relationship is.”

Some might see this as McKenzie losing his grip on his job, a sign that he may soon be unemployed. Others, especially if the Raiders hit more home runs in the draft and have a solid free agency, could view it as a very healthy organizational philosophy.

Jack Del Rio is hoping to turn the Raiders around. He comes off as a very no-nonsense, very genuine coach, who has a track record of success. His only other stint as head coach, nearly eight full seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, didn’t hold the same fortune as the one he may now have.

McKenzie will still have final say on the draft. He will be heavy-handed in free agency. But Del Rio — especially in free agency —will have a role. Del Rio has solid connections and a very good reputation in the league, and is sure to help reel in some big fish.

Regardless, Davis downplayed any coaches didn’t want to come to Oakland, which ties into marquee free agents:

“I think there’s a misnomer that people weren’t excited about coming to the Raiders. Everybody that I interviewed was excited about coming to the Raiders. I think the coordinators are excited, too.”

It was reported by multiple news outlets, primarily ESPN and NFL Network, that some of the bigger free agents of 2014 didn’t want to play for the Raiders.

But the dynamic seems to be changing. Del Rio will answer to both Davis and McKenzie, and Davis says he’ll report to them as well. Davis says he’s committed to spending in regard to hiring top coordinators and position coaches. He says he wants the best.

And, of course, he says he wants Raiders:

“Jack is our guy. The process that we went through is there was a wide net. I did about seven people and Reggie did about five or six. In order to do that in a short amount of time, we had to split up. When it came down to it I had one person I felt should be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Reggie had somebody he wanted me to talk to for a second time and that was coach Sparano.”

Davis continued:

“Nobody else really got to the stage of a second interview. After we had the interview with Jack for the second time, Reggie and I went back and talked for about an hour. We fully agreed on it. It was simple. I believe he’s right for the Raiders right now. I think he is the guy, and he understands us.”

McKenzie is coming off of a more than solid draft, though he struck out in free agency. He struck out in the hiring of Dennis Allen, who from accounts of players, began to lose support as losses mounted.

McKenzie called Del Rio a “true Raider,” and that he is the man to lead the Raiders into the future. McKenzie joked at Del Rio’s introductory press conference, that while Del Rio was drafted much higher than McKenzie, he wasn’t the better player.

If the vibe of that press conference continues into the offseason, into the locker room and into the future, the Raiders will absolutely be a good football team once again.

Whether that materializes, though, is something we’ll all find out about in the next two years.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.