Owner Mark Davis introduced new general manager Reggie McKenzie. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Mark Davis: Three months ago, on October 8, 2011, at 3:00 a.m., I received a phone call from Dr. General Hilliard that my father had passed away. It was a sad day for the Raider Nation and all the players, coaches and fans that have worn the famed Silver and Black over the past 48 years. I had two immediate goals – one short-term, one long-term. My short-term goal was to make sure that the season continued with as little disruption as possible and to achieve our goal of reaching the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. In that regard, I asked John Madden to join me in a meeting with Coach Jackson where we discussed the optimum working relationship between the coach and myself. My short-term goal went great for about five days, then Jason Campbell broke his right clavicle in the game. The following week, we lost Darren McFadden to a foot injury, which unknowingly at the time turned out to be a season-ending injury. At one point in the season, we were 7-4 and two games ahead in the division and then we lost four of the next five games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. To say the least, it was certainly a disappointment. My long-term goal was to research and identify a general manager to lead the Raider organization into the future. I consulted with Ron Wolf to help me identify potential candidates, one of which was Reggie McKenzie. Unfortunately, league rules prohibited us from contacting any current employees of other National Football League teams until the end of the regular season. So for three months, I did extensive research into all the potential candidates for the job. But early on, I recognized that Reggie McKenzie was the man I was looking for to lead the Raiders into the future. On January 1st, the shackles were off and we were finally able to ask the Green Bay Packers for permission to interview Reggie McKenzie to become general manager of the Oakland Raiders. On January 2nd, the Green Bay Packers graciously granted that permission. I called Reggie, we spoke briefly, and made arrangements for him to fly in for an interview. We met with John Madden for about six hours and reached an agreement that Reggie would become the general manager of the Oakland Raiders. After the meeting, I texted Reggie that my father used to say, 'The greatness of the Raiders is in its future.' Reggie, the future is now. Ladies and gentlemen, Reggie McKenzie.
Reggie McKenzie: Thank you. Thank you guys for showing up. I appreciate the warm welcome. First of all, I would like to thank God. I would like to thank my family; wife and kids especially. I would like to take time to thank the Green Bay Packers for giving me the opportunity to see football in a different light. I'd like to thank the Raiders organization. Mark – you especially Mark; I'll look forward to working with you as we continue building the legacy that your father has built. The legacy of the Raiders is steeped in tradition, but with all things, there comes a time when change is necessary and for the Raiders, the time is now. The Raider organization, with respect and difference for all of its tradition in history, is about to embark on a new era. This era is in the forefront right now and I'm proud to be in leadership to moving this organization into the new era. Early this morning, I informed Coach Hue Jackson that he was relieved of his head coaching duties. I have a lot of respect for Coach Jackson and I wished him well as he moves forward into his future. But as we embark upon this era of change, one thing will remain constant and that is our Commitment to Excellence. From this day forward, there will be a one common, unified goal from everybody in this organization. From the accountants to the new head coach, everyone will have a place and everyone will have a piece of this organization. It is my part and my job to manage this transition, to identify what works and what needs to be done differently so that we can play the kind of football that our owners and our fans so much deserve. Guys, my approach is old school. I'm a roll up the sleeves type of guy. That wakes up early in the morning like iron workers and come prepared to get the job done. Guys, when this building is all working together, and I mean this building right here, the people in here all working together for one common goal, we're going to be able to fill it. We're going to fill each other. That's when we know we have a winner. We will win championships here. I'm going to keep this short because we have a lot of work to do and I'm eager to get this thing started. Thank you. We can take questions now.
Q: Reggie, congratulations. Did you consider giving Hue one year to prove himself, kind of like [Mike] Holmgren did with [Eric] Mangini? Or when you came in, no matter who the guy was or even if the Raiders had gone to the playoffs, were you going to bring in your guy?
Reggie McKenzie: Within the last couple of days, the decision was made. The decision was made before I came in this morning, yes. I've followed and I've researched Coach Jackson and the Raiders this season, this year, so my decision was made prior to this morning.
Q: Mark, Reggie just said that change is necessary. How much of this was your initiation? Do you think some change is necessary? How comfortable were you with Hue Jackson as the coach?
Mark Davis: Well, change happened on October 8th and we had to bring this full round. One thing I know is what I don't know and I knew the one thing I did know was I needed to bring the right people in here and I had the right people to consult with, with Ron Wolf, John Madden and those kind of people and we discussed a lot of things about the Raider organization and which way it should go. And my feeling always has been that if my father wasn't here, we needed somebody run that football side of the building, and I needed to find the right person, and I truly believe that Reggie McKenzie is the right man for this job and I think you will all see that as we go along.
Q: What's your plan for the coaching search? Do you have someone in mind, when you'd like to hire someone and do you have a criteria? There's a lot of history of offensive-minded head coaches for the Raiders and what direction you plan to go in…
Reggie McKenzie: Well, I'll try to answer one question at a time. The search will begin immediately and we will start the interview process. I have my short list. The criteria is that it doesn't matter, offense or defense-minded coaches. We just want a winner, a guy that we feel that can lead this team moving forward as we embark here on this new era. The coach for this Raider organization, the next coach, will be a coach that we all feel that will lead us to our ultimate goal and that is winning championships. Offense or defensive coordinator types really will play no influence. The number one is he can lead, motivate and move our players and our team to victories.
Q: And Reggie from an outsider's perspective, why do you think the Raiders have not had success the last nine years?
Reggie McKenzie: Well, I can't tell you what's happened within this organization the last nine years, but following those guys during those times, you saw a lot of change. Consistency played a big part, but Mark Davis has told me that he wants long-term success and we're going to start it right now. To begin, we're going to have to build and that's where our mindset is and that's where it is moving forward.
Q: There is a lot of talk that Winston Moss is on your short list for coaches, is he in fact on there? Do you have enough picks and salary cap to make the changes that need to be made?
Reggie McKenzie: Number one with the short list, I will not name any names until I absolutely need to. Do we have enough bullets? Absolutely, we have some players in place. Do we have enough draft picks? No, we don't, but we can find players in different ways. We are going to work the college free agent market, you have to work the waiver wire, you have to work the lower-tier unrestricted free agents. You don't have to go after top-dollar players just to improve your team. Trust me, I have 18 years of experience to know how to build a team. Draft picks will come, but we will find a way to get around that this year. As far as the cap, we will manage the cap. If we don't have room right now, then we will figure out a way to get some room. When there is a player involved where we need some room, then we will figure it out. That's our job.
Q: Mark, when your dad passed away, Amy Trask said that there were plans for succession moving ahead at some point. Did Al [Davis] leave behind certain plans like a short list of general managers or anything?
Mark Davis: I used to talk to my dad every night. We'd talk on the phone every night and talk about football and the organization and things of that nature, so I had a good idea what he felt, but we never talked about specific people or anything like that. I know he had high regard for Reggie.
Q: Mark, as you make major decisions for this franchise, such as hiring Reggie McKenzie, how much do you take into consideration what your father would have done in that situation or are you trying to plot your own course at this point?
Mark Davis: I think it is all based on bringing the Raiders to greatness. That's always been his goal and to win and now that's my goal. We are doing it in a different way because I don't know what my dad knew. He knew talent, he knew all these things. It's a big void to fill when he passed on. That is why Reggie is taking over that whole football side because I believe he is the right man to do it.
Q: How much are you going to follow the model of what you learned in Green Bay in terms of chain of command and the relationship between you and your coach?
Reggie McKenzie: Very much. I have seen how that works and it is the same relationship Ron Wolf had with Coach Mike Holmgren. I think when you have a great relationship from the top, it filters down. The Packers organization is done right and that's why I am going to make sure our chain of command is done that way. So it will factor a lot.
Q: For you Mark, how involved will you be in the process of picking out the Head Coach and everyday team actions? For Reggie, what is your ideal situation for how much interaction you and Mark have going forward?
Mark Davis: Reggie is going to be running the show there, but we will consult quite a bit. We will be talking a lot. Reggie is going to be making the decisions and that's where it should be. There will be other things that I need to do within the organization and I will be able to focus on those now, which I was taken away from for awhile.
Reggie McKenzie: Ditto what Mark said. He empowered me and we will consult often. I told Mark, don't turn off his cell phone because I will be calling him. It will be a great relationship.
Q: Mark, how would you describe yourself as an owner?
Mark Davis: I would say that I am an observer. I like to observe things and see how things are going and then actually act on those types of things that I see. I'm not the type of person who is going to make a decision right away on certain things. Obviously with Carson [Palmer], that was a decision that was probably one of the fastest things I have ever been involved with. If we had more time it would have been nice, but we didn't. Normally I like to observe things and see how they are. I guess I have patience.
Q: Reggie, other than the chance to be an NFL GM, what were the reasons you took this job?
Reggie McKenzie: The better question is what reason I wouldn't take this job. You guys won't have time to eat dinner tonight if I list all the reasons to take this job. This is where I came from; I'm back home now. The decision was easy. As soon as Mark told me 'we want you for the job,' I couldn't stop smiling. You saw how deep my dimples run. I was excited and there are truly a lot of reasons to be a part of this organization and I'm glad to be back home to help this organization reach greatness. That's what I want. This is a dream job.
Q: For Mark, is there any chance you are going to sell this team or are you in this for the long term?
Mark Davis: Are you making me an offer? [Laughs] No, there is no intention to sell this team. This is my life. It's been my life. I've been with the Raiders for 48 years and my whole thing is to perpetuate the legacy that my father built here. I have one of the largest extended families in the world and that's what all these former players and people that have been with this organization and they mean a lot to me. This organization represents them as well as they represent us and that's where it's going to stay.
Q: Reggie, what type of culture would you like to build here? What type of stamp will you put on this organization from the bottom up?
Reggie McKenzie: For one, hard working, dedicated, and all working for one common goal. I want the organization to communicate with each other. Have great communication, great communication amongst players and coaches. Great communication amongst coaches and scouts. Everybody being on one accord. Having one common unified goal is how you win, when everybody is walking to the same beat and have the same purpose and the same goal. That's when you know that you are on the right path. From the standpoint of chain of command that process has already started today so it will be a work in progress. We're just going to keep plugging away. I just want to make sure we have a structure that is highly conducive to winning. I only know one way and I have been working at for the last 18 years and it started with Ron Wolf and what he implemented in Green Bay. When I got there in '94 that was all I saw and that is the only way I know so we are going to roll up our sleeves and work at it. We are going to get better, that's for sure.
Q: What, after selecting a Head Coach, would be the top priority to make a change to the team?
Reggie McKenzie: The top priority really is trying to get this personnel staff together. Then figure out the team, our talent, and where we need to upgrade. The steps into that will be meetings, the Senior Bowl, the Combine, and the Draft preparations. It is all about the team from here on out. It's trying to upgrade every area and that's pretty much it. This is about making sure we have the best group of players that we can possibly field, that's what it is all about. This offseason we will get the top 80 players that we can have. We want the best 80. We will not stop working until we get the best 80.
Q: You were a 10th round pick out of Tennessee, can you talk a little about your playing days? What did you learn from that, how does that make you a better GM, and also if things go bad, you're not going to throw your twin brother at us are you?
Reggie McKenzie: If I bring in my twin brother, he would end up firing a whole lot more guys because he needs his space; he a little bit bigger than I am. Being drafted in the 10th round in my playing days here, a lot of great memories. I played with a great group of guys. When I walked into the building, I was greeted by some of my teammates. That was great to see. I did not expect that. So whoever was involved for getting some of my teammates here, I appreciate it. It is good to see guys that are happy to see me get this job, thanks guys. I had a great time playing. Being a part of the Raider organization, I didn't know how great it was, but we were always talked about. Everybody talked about the Raiders, and I was an old country kid from Knoxville, Tennessee, I would come back home and I was a rock star. I couldn't believe it, but everybody there followed the Raiders.
Q: People have different philosophies on how to build a team. Some people want to go quarterback out, some people want to go with the lines and work their way out, what is your philosophy in actually building a team? And where do you start and how do want your team to look?
Reggie McKenzie: Well, you know, we are not getting into it too detailed, bottom line, you want to make sure you have got productive, good football players. And what that means is, it's not totally talent. I want some guys who love to play the game that are going to play hard that are going to play tough. That is what I am looking for. I am looking for some guys who want to play and want to win. That will to compete and you can find that in a guy easily because guys who don't really like football, they show up. But as far as building the team positionally, any time I can add a player that is going to help this Raider team, he is going to be added. I like big and strong. I always will. I like speed, that's not going to change. We want good football players.