As the Oakland Raiders continue the new era under principal owner Mark Davis, the question remains whether general manager Reggie McKenzie is setting up this once respectable franchise up for more failure in the past year. After another losing season in which the Raiders finished with the third worst record in the National Football League, the concern is whether the former Green Bay Packers personnel guru will ever turn this franchise around.
My answer to that is simple: No, McKenzie is the solution to turning arguably the worst roster into a winning one. But the reality of the situation is that it will take beyond 2014, the likely year where significant improvement is expected to be made, for this team to show any signs of returning to glory in the foreseeable future.
The reality is that McKenzie entered a situation where it appears impossible he will ever win. With an overblown amount of salary cap due to contracts that were given to Carson Palmer and Richard Seymour, McKenzie has been given absolutely no leeway to find any bargains at low rates that can make an immediate impact on this roster.
He also wasn't given any favors as he began preparing for the 2012 draft. Due to the Palmer trade, McKenzie did not possess a single draft pick until the third round, and to make matters worse it turned out to be a compensatory pick.
Based on the first year alone, McKenzie needs to be given a pass. He developed a football mind while working for Ted Thompson, one of the elite general managers in this game, and has a knack for talent. There is a reason the Packers have been contenders in the NFL for the majority of the past decade (minus Aaron Rodgers' first year as a starter).
In fact, the worst-kept secret in the league is the easiest way to build a formidable contender. It's not a coincidence that the teams who have become consistent winners are never extremely active during the first week of free agency and never overpay for quality players.
Why? Because the NFL Draft is feast day for smart general managers, who not only find players in the later rounds of the draft but also pick the best player on their draft board.
However, the Raiders have struggled in that department due to their multiple misses in the first round. While there have been quality players available during the Raiders' time on the clock, the Raiders focused heavily on adding speed and athleticism across the roster. Although, that typically doesn't prove to lead to long term success.
Here is a latest example of a past mistake when they selected Darrius-Heyward Bey:
McKenzie comes from a winning environment, and is quickly changing the draft strategy for the Raiders. This should be no surprise if Oakland selects the best player on their board as opposed to settling for the biggest "need" on the roster. Though, the problem that he faces when evaluating this roster is every need could be addressed immediately.
The quarterback situation is in a flux, with Carson Palmer likely on the way out after failing to live up to the passer he was during his Cincinnati days. A trade for Matt Flynn, a former developmental backup while with the Packers, appears imminent. However, the current Seahawks quarterback seems to be nothing more than a stopgap while the search for the "franchise guy" is still underway.
Another direction can be offensive line, where both tackle spots could be upgraded through the draft. With Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher potentially on the board, McKenzie could easily find a suitable upgrade with one of those prospects despite the likely criticism due to its lack of flair.
Defensively, nearly the entire unit can use an overhaul. Defensive line could be addressed with the third overall pick, leaving areas at linebacker and the secondary to be addressed later in the draft.
McKenzie's future will also lean heavily on Dennis Allen's ability to bring stability to the franchise.
Ultimately, the likelihood is that both Allen and McKenzie will get the shaft long before it should happen. They inherited a roster not only in cap hell, but also one filled with depleted depth due to the lack of success in the draft from the late Al Davis.
McKenzie will be given 2013 to fill some of the many needs on this roster, and at worst they should be given 2014 to potentially add some playmakers in a draft class that appears to be more appealing.
In the end, don't blame McKenzie for the downfall of this franchise. The quotation "patience is a virtue" could never be more true when concerning the state of the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, I get the sense that this young, bright general manager will be shown the door before his team returns to its glory days.