Quarterback Derek Carr
In his over three decades covering football, Peter King has seen his fair share of general managers hired, and then subsequently fired, after failing to turn around their respective franchises in a quick enough manner.
It's a situation he's seen play out time and time again, and one he feared might manifest in Oakland after a slow start on the field for Reggie McKenzie in his first few seasons as the Raiders general manager.
However, Owner Mark Davis' patience in McKenzie was rewarded, and fast forward a few seasons, and the Raiders have returned to the playoffs, and McKenzie has cleaned up on the awards circuit, being recognized across the board for what he did to the team's roster in 2016.
"In my opinion, the best thing he [Davis] has done for this franchise is to have patience with the personnel side of the ball," said King. "It would have been very easy for him a couple of years ago to say, 'boy, it's not happening fast enough. I'm going to get another general manager.' This is a little bit too about Mark Davis' patience. He knew he had the right guy, and he gave him the time to succeed."
And succeed is precisely what McKenzie has done, particularly in the draft, as he's secured franchise players for the Silver and Black on both sides of the football in quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack.
"I think you get him [Carr] healthy for a 16-game season, and he will win an MVP in his life, in my opinion," King explained. "That's how good he is…. I don't know how you look at the NFL today, right now, if you had a draft of all the players in the NFL right now; I think if you're McKenzie, if you're [Head Coach] [Jack] Del Rio, if you're Davis, who are you picking before Derek Carr? That guy is a goldmine for your franchise."
While Carr has certainly become the face of the franchise over the course of his three seasons as the Raiders starting quarterback, Mack has quietly gone about his business, stacking accolade on top of accolade, culminating his dominant 2016 campaign as the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.
Ask King about the former Buffalo Bull, and while he knows that people around the league thought Mack would be good, no one necessarily thought he would be *this *good *this *quickly.
"Nobody knew that he would have this level of play," King said. "And I think what is so interesting about him - there was a play last year, and I'm trying to remember who it was against - there was a play last year where he baited a right tackle so well. He went and bull rushed him, and then he stopped, like, 'okay, you got me,' and then he just went around the side and sacked the quarterback, and I said, 'how smart is that?' This is a guy who hasn't done it for a long time, but he's so precocious at the art of the pass rush."
While McKenzie certainly deserves a lot of credit for constructing the Raiders roster that eventually returned to the postseason last year for the first time since 2002, King also made sure to note the importance of Jack Del Rio, and how much he has improved in his second tenure as an NFL head coach.
"I think one of the great things about the coaching business is that if you're pretty good at your job, you're usually going to get a second chance," King said. "There's no guarantee, but if you're good, you're going to get a second chance. He leaves Jacksonville, and I always thought at some point, somebody will give him a second chance, but I think he's significantly better his second time around."