I had planned on writing a post entitled "Reggie McKenzie Quietly Doing Things Right In Oakland," until Sports Illustrated's Peter King led his Monday Morning Quarterback column with McKenzie cleaning up Al Davis and Hue Jackson's mess. Seems McKenzie's work is not going unnoticed.
McKenzie, who worked in the Green Bay Packers front office for 18 years under the tutelage of Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson, walked into just about the worst situation possible for a new general manager. The Raiders were $26 million over the salary cap and had traded away the bulk of their 2012 draft, and they were being led by an erratic head coach who seemed more interested in making friends with the media than with his own players.
McKenzie's firing of head coach Hue Jackson was the first of many tough but correct decisions he's made since coming on the scene in Oakland. Jackson's trade for quarterback Carson Palmer really put McKenzie in a bad spot. Not only is he without a 2012 first-round pick, but he will lose a conditional second-rounder in 2013 that can become another first if Oakland makes it to the AFC title game in either of the next two years. All this, and McKenzie is saddled with an aging veteran quarterback who hasn't been an elite player at the position since, arguably, 2008.
McKenzie, to his credit, only sees opportunity, as he tells King:
Never thought, 'Woe is me,' Not once. Never thought I shouldn't take the job because of things like that either. It never entered my mind. I just figured, 'We'll find players.' I know how to find players. I've been in Green Bay when we found Mark Tauscher and Donald Driver late in drafts, and found Tramon Williams on the street, and signed Charles Woodson in free agency. It can be done.
McKenzie has started finding those players, but not by making big splashes in free agency, where his hands were admittedly tied.
His trade for Panthers running back Mike Goodson is a good example of the type of move that flies under the radar in March but that provides important depth during a 16-game season. No, he's not the talent the departed Michael Bush is, but he is a more-than-capable backup to perennially-injured Darren McFadden. More importantly, he is slated to make $615,000 in 2012, a far cry from the $6.45 million guaranteed the Bears will be paying Bush.
While I agree with NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal that McKenzie never would have made the Palmer trade, he isn't one to bemoan his fate in the press, unlike Hue Jackson, who never met a bus he would hesitate to throw others under while in front of a microphone.
No, McKenzie will quietly go about his work of turning the Raiders around. While I don't expect them to do much of anything this year, I think McKenzie will have the Raiders back in contention for a championship sooner rather than later.