Let’s start this off with some good news: The Oakland Raiders are well on their way to earning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft if they don’t mess around and win anymore games like they did on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also have a few more first-round selections to help start the rebuilding process for when the franchise moves to Las Vegas. Alright, that’s it.
The rest is a dark cloud hovering over the northern California city after the team announced general manager Reggie McKenzie was released from his duties after seven years with the franchise.
The news cannot be overly shocking, especially considering the current state of the organization as the bottom feeders in the AFC West at 3-10 overall. But in some ways, it is a stunning decision since McKenzie was fired less than two years after winning the 2016 NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
However, this wasn’t based on one season’s worth of results. There are actually four very stupid decisions, and one in particular, that led to Reggie McKenzie’s demise in Oakland.
1. Derek Carr’s Contract Extension
Less than a year after Mark Davis announced a four-year contract extension for McKenzie, which would keep him with the Raiders until 2020, the Oakland GM decided to give Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million contract extension. The deal for the 6-foot-4 signal caller was massive, with $40 million full guaranteed, $70 million in total guarantees and a $12.5 million signing bonus.
That’s a lot of money for a player who hadn’t and still hasn’t won a playoff game yet. Carr is talented, but it’s impossible to justify paying a quarterback that much money who hasn’t even won his own division yet.
2. Hiring Jon Gruden
After a nine-year hiatus from coaching, McKenzie decided it would be a great idea to hire ESPN broadcaster and former NFL head coach Jon Gruden to take the franchise to new heights. The jury is still out on whether that will happen, but Gruden getting a 10-year, $100 million contract will forever be absurd, no matter what. The goal was to build some excitement back to the Raiders and the first year has produced far more questions than answers about the the direction of the team.
The hiring of Gruden was undoubtedly the beginning of the end for McKenzie.
3. Letting Khalil Mack Leave Town
It’s been three months since the head-scratching deal went down, and those words above still ring true. No matter how bad the situation, or how many draft picks you got in return, there was just no way the Raiders should have traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. It continues to look like a terrible move. Let’s hope those 2019 and 2020 first round draft picks are worth at least half of what Mack does on the football field right now.
4. Trading Amari Cooper
Hooray! The quietly tanking Raiders got yet another first round draft pick by shipping star wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. Those were likely the sentiments back then, and now the entire organization, including the former Raiders GM, is left shaking their heads after seeing Cooper look unstoppable at times with his new team.
There were likely several other factors that led to this decision, but there’s no doubt these four things played a major role in Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie losing his job.