Raiders players return to the practice field to prepare for their Week 8 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts following the bye week.
Opening statement: “It’s been a while since we spoke. We made a trade today to the Dallas Cowboys. We felt like it was an opportunity that I felt like I couldn’t pass on. To get a first-round pick in this business here, I thought was invaluable. It was something that I felt like I had to do moving forward for this organization. I love Amari [Cooper]. I like everything that he stands for, but I just felt… When I got a call from Stephen Jones this morning, and he put it on the table what he wanted to do. He wanted the player, and he gave me the pick. That’s what it came down to. Any questions that you have, shoot away.”
Q: How does something like this get initiated?
McKenzie: “Well I’ll tell you what, there were teams calling at the beginning of the season. Not only on Amari, but a couple of other players, too. That’s what you do. You got to understand that. To hit me early that season, and it wasn’t Dallas, but a couple of weeks later another team called me. So now I’m wondering is it going to continue? With those teams, it did. Then it hit the media that there was some interest. During that time, I told them no. The interest on their behalf came greater. They wanted to put something together. You can do what you want. But then after it hit the fan, there must’ve been five other teams that called. That’s when it kind of got a little haywire then. All kinds of proposals were coming at me. I pretty much shot them all down until this one that came this morning.”
Q: The fact that Cooper was coming up on the fifth-year option and had the same agent as Khalil Mack, did you foresee problems? Is that one of the reasons you traded?
McKenzie: “No. The whole beginning was not to, going into this season, to trade Amari Cooper. Now, I understand when interest peaks on any player, it’s always a two-way street. But trading him because of the agent or because it’s his fifth-year option, that was not the point of it at all.”
Q: Was a first-round pick ever on the table earlier?
McKenzie: “Well no, they were inquiring. Nobody put anything on the table at that point. When they called for the second or third time is when they were… And the first-round pick was not on the table. That was a no-go for me.”
Q: You said that you shot down the initial offers, when did your thinking shift?
McKenzie: “This morning. I mean it was an indication from last Friday when Stephen Jones called me for the first time and told me he was going to contact me today. I knew there was a strong interest. What they were going to put on the table, because they never put anything on the table until this morning.”
Q: How much of an impact did the 1-5 record start have on this trade?
McKenzie: “You are getting close to the trade deadline. Everything is on the table. I listen to everything, whether we are 1-5 or 5-1, it all plays a factor. To say that nobody is getting traded after a 5-1 record, I’m not going to say that. If the deal makes sense for me I am going to consider it. Now, like I always do I’ll call Mark Davis. Always communicate with my Head Coach, with Gruden and say, ‘hey, this is what I’m looking at. This is what I got.’ If I’m thinking about doing it or not, that’s the way we will go.”
Q: Can we assume that Jon Gruden and Mark Davis were both on board?
Q: Jon said that this team was not tanking. What does this trade say to the team and the fans also?
McKenzie: “The opportunity...We are building this thing in concert together. I’m talking about me and Coach Gruden. We are building this thing together. I think these picks are going to help this team tremendously, bottom line. It was something I saw as a great opportunity. We aren’t tanking this season. These guys are going to have to step up and continue to work to win some ballgames. That’s going to always be the case. There is always opportunity elsewhere for trades. We got another week. There could be something else down the line of acquiring somebody. We are not tanking this season. I want to win bad.”
Q: Is there anyone on this roster that you would consider untouchable?
McKenzie: “I’m untouchable. (Laughter) Seriously, I’m not going to say anyone is untouchable. Now, in my heart of hearts, would I hate to lose some players more than others? Absolutely. I know the difficulty in replacing and what positions I feel stronger about than others. As far as communication for me, from any team, the line will always be open to anyone. On anyone of our players. Now, whether I am going to like it or not, is hard to say.”
Q: How much of [Amari] Cooper’s up and down production over the last few years factor into this trade?
McKenzie: “I think he is a first round player that’s why I get that first round pick. Now, has he been inconsistent? Absolutely; but has he shown greatness? Absolutely. The consistency is something that I’m sure he’s worked on and this guy is still a young player. I think he’s going to do well down in Dallas.”
Q: You had a team that won 12 games two years ago. You now have traded away two of the most important players from that team in less than two months. How difficult is that for you?
McKenzie: “It’s always difficult when players are leaving the building. Whether its great players, backup players, role players it doesn’t matter. It’s our job to replace. You can’t keep all your players for whatever reasons, but losing those two players is not something I set out to do after that 12-4 season. As we go from year to year, you can’t keep them all. I’m never going to be blindsided thinking I am going to be able to keep all my impact players.”
Q: What does this trade do to set you up next offseason?
McKenzie: “This is where we get a great opportunity to build. We got pieces now, but we can really build on what we have. With this group of coaches that I got here now, knowing where we are headed schematically on both sides of the ball and on special teams, I think we got the ammunition to build this thing really well here.”
Q: What do you say to the outside perception that’s widely held that Jon Gruden is the guy pulling the strings here and you are executing what he wants to say?
McKenzie: “I don’t mean to laugh, but it’s comical a little bit, what I hear. Excuse me if I don’t read all of your stuff, all the national media stuff, but the stuff that does get relayed to me about who traded Khalil Mack, who traded Amari Cooper, who drafted… We’ve got one draft board. Every coaching staff that I’ve been a part of from Green Bay to Gruden’s staff, I want to know how the coaches rank each player. That’s not going to change. I want to know how they like players. To say they have their own draft board, no. They have their own way of doing it because that’s the way our system is put up. It’s the way I’ve always done it. We go in the big draft room and that’s what we go by. With that being said, you talked about pulling strings. Gruden and I work together very well. Let’s get no mistakes about him pushing me out, that’s not happening. Me not being able to work with Gruden, that’s furthest from the truth, OK? We work really well together. We’re in each other’s offices all the time, talking about players, who’s up and who’s down, who I’d like to see play more, practice squad guys, claiming this guy, trading this guy. I’m going to talk to him about guys calling to trade players, here’s what I think, what do you think. Moving forward, when you talk about the negativity that I hear between me and Gruden, there have been times I’ve wanted to make a statement and say ‘really?’ but I understand. I do understand when you guys see Khalil Mack or something like this, I get it. I don’t think you could find anybody in the building that didn’t like Khalil Mack, including Gruden. The factors were more than us just liking him. Let’s put that to bed now.”
Q: When did you come to the decision that rebuilding, getting draft picks, was the right direction?
McKenzie: “We’re building on what we have. We’ve got some pieces. The bottom line is building with what we have in here now, we’ve got a lot of free agents that have come about. We’ve got to have some impact players, more impact players. I want to do it from the ground up, from the standpoint of drafting.”
Q: To go from 12-4 to where you are now…
McKenzie: “It’s disappointing. It started to get that way last year when we somewhat took a nose dive. I understand the NFL is what it is because of change. The system will now allow you to keep them all. We have to understand that coaching plays a part from the standpoint of systems. We’re talking the 12-4 team, the staff made changes schematically and we didn’t win last year. Changing with another scheme this year. To put all of that on the players, you think it’s easy but it’s not that easy. I’m not going to sit here and point to the players. It’s a lot of change. Those teams that do well consistently, there’s not a lot of change organizationally, when you talk about coaches. That’s probably on me. There have been too many coaching changes since I’ve been here.”