We used to have a saying at the Raiders when I worked there: "The jungle is never dangerous as long as you know the trails." With Reggie McKenzie coming on board as the new "football man" in Oakland, it appears that there no longer is going to be a jungle. The entire Raider organization is about to transform.
Only days after being named general manager, McKenzie took swift action in letting everyone know who holds the power, firing coach Hue Jackson before even meeting the media. McKenzie needs to start fresh and build his own organization, and to do that properly he needed his own man in the head chair.
Instant Debate: What now, Oakland?
When Al Davis died in October, everyone knew there would be change coming to the Raiders. It had to happen, too, because change was something Davis never embraced. Things were done in an old style, an old manner, and because Davis had success doing things his own way, he was never willing to adjust to the new era. Davis would often talk to me about how he wanted to change the way we operated. That was his way of letting me know he knew what I was thinking, but it was not going to happen.
Now, the Raiders will embark on a new era, one that will have some lineage to the old days, but clearly become more modern. Because McKenzie comes from Green Bay, expect the Packer infrastructure to come to town. The Packers operate in a traditional manner -- the GM runs the football side, the coaches coach, the scouts scout and everyone knows their role. McKenzie will set up shop the same way in Oakland because this is what he knows and this is what makes him most comfortable. And comfort is important when you have never had the authority that has been bestowed upon him.
Jackson was a casualty of this new era. He tried to be the leader and fill the void when Davis died. But in reality, he tried too hard. I think Jackson had the right idea but chose the wrong course of action. He alienated too many people in the building and was seen as too self-serving. General Mark Welsh once said, "Leadership is a gift given by those who follow." Jackson was losing followers each day.
I am strongly of the belief that a new head coach must assume a different style and perspective when he moves from an assistant chair to the head chair. When I hear people say Packers coach Mike McCarthy has changed since becoming a head coach, it makes me realize he understands the responsibility. This is the reason why McCarthy has been able to be so successful. So the change by Jackson was warranted, but not in the manner he went about it.
McKenzie will run the Raiders his way. He knows he has to bring in some new blood, but he also should know there are some outstanding people in the building who are looking for leadership and guidance and want to help the franchise win. The worst decision McKenzie can make is to blindly clean everyone out. He needs to take his time and evaluate the people already in place and allow them an opportunity to either shine or resist change.
These changes are for the best and McKenzie can start his new career without any obstacles or road blocks. Time is of the essence. Had McKenzie waited like Mike Holmgren did in Cleveland, he would be a year behind. McKenzie starts fresh so he can start fast.
Would Al Davis have been happy with this succession plan? No one will ever know. All Davis would care about is winning and having a team that put fear into opponents. That is McKenzie's charge now.