Eddie Paskal: And we are just very excited to welcome in the general manager for the Silver and Black, Mike Mayock. And Mike, where are you right now? Where are you coming to us live from?
Mike Mayock: (laughs) I've been at the East-West game all week in, in Tampa/St. Pete.
EP: So, what is, that have the past few weeks look like just in terms of your travel schedule?
MM: Yeah. What happens is, we kind of, move from the regular season into post season which means number one, player reviews, how do we stack up our roster, uh, which guys are free agents and begin to stack those free agents against what we'll be looking at in free agency. Guys in my department, especially Dwayne Joseph, who heads up the pro scouting department, they've been working their tails off trying to get all the grades in on this year's free agent. The college guys have been out scouring the country the entire fall. We had half of our scouts at the East-West game this week, the other half were at the NFL PA game in LA. So, we split our squat up to cover both games because the practices are simultaneously held, uh, and I could not be happier with the group of scouts we have in house now. They're working their tails off, there's no ego, we're all getting along great and, we've got a bunch of real good guys working hard to make the Raiders better.
EP: Do you see more value in these all-star games now as a general manager than two years ago or whatever it was when you were with [NFL] network?
MM: Not really. I think I always knew how much value was there and, you know, I think the comparison is always, you know, do you like these all-star games or do you like the combine better? And I've always liked the all-star games better because in addition to watching how they move and, and what, the, you know, at the combine you can see a guy move. You can time a guy. You can interview him. But they don't put pads on. And what we get at the East-West game and the NFL PA, the Senior Bowl, is we get one-on-one competition with pads on so you can really break down each individual player, then obviously, we get all the team stuff. Seven on seven, nine on seven, and we get not just watching the practice, but we all get the film afterwards, so, it's a great opportunity.
To give you an example, to watch a small school kids, say, who has never faced a, a significant amount of competition and then you pop them in at the Senior Bowl and you say, "What's this kid gonna be?" And a few years ago, Eddie, there was a division three offensive lineman by the name of Ali Marpet. And Ali came in and everybody was... I looked at him in the huddle and he's looking around at helmets of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Clemson and here he is, a Division III kid from upstate New York somewhere and we all wondered how he would do. And, and the kid played his tail off, competed and that equalized the comp- the level of competition question against this kid went, went away because he competed against the SEC guys like he belonged. He went the second round, he's been a starter at guard for Tampa Bay ever since. So, I'm a huge fan of the all-star games.
EP: You know, I'm glad you brought up the Senior Bowl because would you ever have thought in your wildest dreams that that week in Mobile last year would produce such great on the field production for this team, eh, you know, just six months later. I mean, you look at all the guys that we had down there and nearly everyone stepped in and really performed at a high level in 2019.
MM: Well, I certainly hope so because it's a, it's a huge advantage to coach in that game and what we get as coaches in that game that the rest of the league doesn't, is full access to the kids 24/7. We've got them in the meeting room, we've got them in the morning, we've got them at night and you ought to do a better job with that kind of access. And I think we did maximize. We drafted four kids from last year's Senior Bowl and the irony is all four were on the other teams. John Abram didn't even play in the game, but, but he attached himself to Gruden's hip and my hip the whole week even though he was hurt and couldn't play. Isaiah Johnson we got in the fourth, Foster Moreau we got in the fourth, Hunter Renfrow we got in the fifth and then of course, you know, we, we got Alec Ingold as a free agent, Keelan Doss, our wideout as a free agent, Te'von Coney on our practice squad. So, you know, we ended up coming out of that game with four draft picks, three free agents and we couldn't have been happier with the way the kids played.
EP: You know, Mike, just over a year ago, and it's crazy that it, that it's already been a year, but just over a year ago introduces the GM for the the Raiders. When you look back over your first 12 or so months, kind of, in your position, has anything about that surprised you or has the year kind of gone with the ebbs and flows the way you expected it to coming in?
MM:Well, you know, I've spent the last 18 or 19 years working with a lot of the GMs and head coaches around the league, so I had a pretty good feel for the draft process and was pretty comfortable with that. I think the pro free agency was a little different for me. You know, we came in, I came in on January 1st and free agency starts two and a half months later. We had a lot of work to do. So, that was a, a major challenge. I think assembling, a staff was a major challenge, one which I'm very proud of right now.
And I think just the first regular season. You know, the, the challenge of every week sitting down with Jon and figuring out do we need to sign somebody? Are we okay on practice squad? What's the 53 look like? What's the 46 look like? To me, they were - it was really a learning process. It was exhilarating and, you know, I had, I had a lot to learn and I'm really appreciative of the fact that I get a year under my belt now and hopefully I can do a better job next year.
EP: Does the way that you and Coach Gruden communicate change in season to off season?
MM: Well, what happens is, I try to, kind of, stay out of the way publicly because I believe that the regular season is about the coaches and the players. And I feel like my job is to support the coaching staff to whatever I, extent we can with injuries, free agents, getting guys off the streets, guys that can help, and, and that's tough because Jon and the coaching staff are working their asses off every week trying to get ready with game plan. And, you know, so, they're working 18 hours a day and I'm just trying to complement them and, and be a part of that process in any way I can.
EP: Leading into the regular season, you said, "Hey, this is gonna be a new year for me because I got a little skin in the game in terms of the results, the wins and losses for the team." Because of that, did that change the way that you physically watched the games on Sunday, Monday or Thursday night?
MM: Well, I think when you have skin in the game, um, your level of investment is completely different and, you, you know, I, my 85-year-old dad was asking me about that the other day and he was my high school coach, so he kinda gets what it feels like on game day and we were talking about that issue and I was like, "Dad," you know, "the reason I wanted to get back into it was because of the way you feel on Sundays." And my dad understood that and I understand that and it's, it's three and a half hours during the game of the highest low- highs and the lowest lows. And I can't describe it any other way because the, there, you know, half the time you wanna puke, half the time you wanna celebrate, but at the end of the day, that's what brings you back.
EP: You know, I just want to touch on one guy, actually a couple guys real quick though. But in terms of Richie Incognito, a guy that you guys felt it was important to bring back, you know, you look, headed into this season. You signed him to essentially approve the deal. You said you stood out and said, "Hey," you know, "we want Richie to be a part of this program, but he's gotta prove it to us on and off the field." Obviously, he did that for you guys to feel comfortable rewarding him with a new deal. But what really did you see from Richie this season, both on and off the field to make you guys as a collective feel comfortable in bringing him back for 2020?
MM: First of all, I had a history with Richie. I knew just about every offensive line coach he's ever played for and they all loved him and they all pounded the table for him. So, I felt like there was less risk involved with bringing Richie in than, than the rest of the world did. Jon loved Richie. What I love about Richie is he came in, he made some promises to us, he kept his mouth shut, played his tail off and kept all of his promises both on and off the field. He was great on the o-line meeting room, he helped a lot of the younger offensive linemen, he's a role model for them when you want. Whether you believe it or not, the guy comes to work every friggin' day, he gives you everything he has and then he plays at a high level every Sunday. So bringing him back was an easy decision.
EP: You know, we talked a little bit about the 2019 rookie class, but, you know, in all three phases of the game, really, you have guys come in and contribute. Guys are playing a lot of snaps. Heavy reps. Is it rewarding for you and Coach Gruden to sit back now, and certainly not rest on your laurels at all, but to sit back and to realize how many just net positives you were able to steal from the draft last year?
MM: Well, I think what I'm most proud of is that it was a collective effort and what I mean by that is that there's and old saying in, in the draft world that, you know, it's all about draft and develop. And, and those last two words, and develop, are really, really critical to the whole... you know, you can draft a bunch of guys, but if the coaching staff doesn't buy in with you and work hard at develop, developing them, it doesn't get done. And, and I think the thing I like the most is Jon and I were on the same page from the day we drafted those kids, we had a plan for every single one of them.
Now, did some of them exceed our expectations? Yeah, they did. And that was really cool. But at, I, I really believe at the end of the day, uh, we had a plan, it was draft and develop and the coaching staff was outstanding with, with really working hard at integrating the young guys in at an early stage.
EP: Mike, did you really, did you and coach and, and the collective, did you really honestly think that this kid from Eastern Michigan was gonna show and be a double-digit sack guy as a rookie?
MM: No. I expected Maxx to come in and compete his tail off because that's what he does. Um, he jumps off the tape as the energizer buddy. The cool thing about Maxx is, he's got length and he can bend. And a lot of big guys can't bend. So, when you put in length, the ability to bend and his motor, we knew he had a high chance to succeed in the NFL at a certain point. We also thought, he was a little bit power deficient. I, I'll tell you, he put on 10 or... rookies don't put 10, 12 pounds on during their rookie season. He hit the weight room. He bought into the nutrition program. Everything he did was the right thing and, you know, every week he got better. You know, he, he listens to coaching. He puts weight on. He comes out and more than anything though, he plays every week and every day like his hair's on fire. So, did he exceed our expectations year one? Absolutely. And I think the challenge for him and the rest of the rookies is to take a big step in year two.
EP: You know, Maxx is obviously on the short list for defensive rookie of the year, but you have a guy on the offensive side of the ball in Josh Jacobs on the short list for offensive rookie of the year. When you think back to your first interactions with Josh, what really stood out when you had a chance to meet him and spend some time with him?
MM: He was humble and he was hungry. And, I was at the Alabama Pro Day and our, our running back coach, Kirby Wilson, who I've got so much respect for, Kirby and I sat down with Josh in the running back meeting room the morning of the Pro Day and we closed the door and we watched about an hour of tape, the three of us. We concentrated on pass protection, Kirby did a great job of walking him through everything he knew and didn't know about pass protection. We knew he could be an outstanding running back. We wanted to make sure that mentally he could handle what Jon Gruden does from a pass protection standpoint in our offense.
And he picked it up. He was quick, a quick study. He was eager, but again, he was humble and he was hungry. And, and I think he had a little chip on his shoulder A) from the way he grew up and B) because he was never the guy in the back field in college. And you, you could really see. He came to camp, he was hungry, he didn't want any part of the media world. He was focused on football. You could make the argument that, that he should be the Rookie of the Year in any poll.
EP: You look at Derek [Carr's] year last year and obviously, there were so many moving parts with him, the wide receiver room seemingly turned over week by week, but at the end of the day, DC has a career high in passing yards, completion percentage, he looks so much more comfortable with what Coach Gruden asked him to do than, say, a year ago. How would you, kind of, look at his year and what he was able to do considering he was put in a very unique position for most of the season?
MM: As far as Derek is concerned, look, it, Jon demands a lot from his quarterbacks. People don't understand how much. Just from a verbiage standpoint all the way to control, pre-snap at the line of scrimmage, you know, his percentage of completions, his ability to command the huddle, his ability to command the pre-snap process at the line of scrimmage, his accuracy. He's got arm talent. You look at his development between him and Darren Waller, you know, Darren Waller had 90 catches for over a thousand yards. Darren Waller is a Pro Bowl tight end by any definition. And then the chemistry he developed with Hunter Renfrow. I think we've got a good offensive line and what we have to do is a better job of supporting him with some more wide receiver talent, the ability to catch the football, uh, the ability to spread the ball around a little bit. You know, Derek handled everything Jon threw at him mentally. I thought he progressed at a rapid rate in year two in Jon's system.
EP: You know, we're just two months out now, more or less, from the start of free agency. How do you think Las Vegas is going to affect free agents for this team, in the short and in the long term?
MM: Yeah, I think first and foremost, we go from a 13% state tax in California to a zero percent state tax in Nevada. The players and their agents are very aware of that. I've heard more comments about what our new stadium looks like. You know, that black exterior, the sleekness of it. People are fired up about the Raiders in Vegas. We've got a brand new facility under construction that the players will be living in seven days a week, state of the art in every single facet. I think there's a real excitement about Jon Gruden leading the Raiders into Las Vegas and it extends financially, extends to our facilities, we're gonna be a first rate operation in every single facet and I think that energy will trickle through into free agency.
EP: Yeah, I think that's the, that's the hope for all of us. So, last one, Mike before we let you get out of here and once again, we do really, really appreciate you giving us a few minutes on a very busy, what's today, Thursday I think it is. When you look back at 2019, obviously the, the team improves, but what do you, what will you remember about 2019 and how will you categorize that season in the journey of this team going forward?
MM: Opportunities lost. I mean, we're six and four. We lost five of our last six. I think what it did was illuminate to me that we, our depth has to get better. We got beat up a little bit. And in the NFL, everybody gets beat up. I've got to do a better job of, of helping Jon have enough depth to get through a season at a high level. I really think in my mind, we wanna build off the success we had. We wanna add to that foundation with more quality, with young players in our rookie class this year. You know, we talk a lot about foundations both on and off the field. We wanna bring great people into our building both in free agency and the draft. We wanna have better depth than we had last year and, and we wanna finish. And I think that's and important to word to me, wanna finish every practice, every game and ultimately the season in the correct fashion.
Take a look at the best gameday entertainment moments from the Raiders' 2019 season.