LOS ANGELES, March 30, 2014 — The Raiders have always been one of the most unique organizations in all of sports. When Al Davis was alive, all decisions went through him. Upon his death in October of 2011, his son Mark Davis has been running the team. The younger Davis wanted a more typical corporate structure. While Reggie McKenzie had never been a general manager, he had years of executive experience with the Green Bay Packers. McKenzie was highly recommended by universally respected football personnel men, including former Raiders and Packers General Manager, Ron Wolf.
Reggie McKenzie inherited a team that was $50 million over the salary cap, the worst financial situation in the league. McKenzie went right to work, taking a keg of dynamite to a roster of overpaid players who did not fit his system. After two years of salary cap hell, the Raiders entered the 2014 season a staggering $70 million under the cap. With more money to spend on players than any other team, McKenzie has brought in free agents for reasonable amounts of money. He is not spending lavishly as Al Davis did.
There have been bumps and bruises along the way, and McKenzie faced criticism for letting left tackle Jared Veldheer go to another team. McKenzie wants players who want to play for the Raiders, which McKenzie knows something about. He played most of his football career as a linebacker for the Raiders in the 1980s. McKenzie is a big bear of a man with a very soft-spoken voice. When asked if he would hire Richie Incognito, he just smiled. These are not the outlaw Raiders of the 1970s. Those days are gone forever, and McKenzie wants to win not with characters, but with men of character.
McKenzie, the football man, knows football. McKenzie, the person, is worth getting to know.
When asked who his football heroes are, McKenzie took a deep pause. The concept of heroes is not one he spends his time focusing on. The first name that came to him was Ron Wolf, who brought him into the business side of football. Then came Al Davis, who drafted him as a player in 1985.
His other football hero is his twin brother Raleigh McKenzie. While Reggie only played a bit beyond four years, Raleigh had a 16-year career as an offensive lineman. Reggie went to one playoff game his rookie season, a loss. Raleigh won two Super Bowl rings. Reggie said that the competition between the two of them made him better. He said that Raleigh was just as good as he was, before jokingly adding “almost.” They competed on everything from their homework to their GPAs, and now Raleigh works as a scout for the Raiders.
Reggie’s main non-football hero is Jesus Christ. McKenzie does read the bible, and truly believes its words. His other non-football heroes are his parents.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered a century from now, and what people would say about Reggie McKenzie, the person, he was again very reflective. He was a man committed to his faith, his family and the people he connected with.
His advice for people first entering the world of football would be useful for those entering any profession. It starts with knowing your profession. Then comes hard work. Of importance is to treat all of the people around you with the utmost respect.
On the lighter side, McKenzie’s three-point stance is not what it was in 1985. If the Raiders were to suffer injuries on the 2014 defensive line, he would not be inserting himself into the lineup. When asked if he would draft himself this year, he smiled again and said, “No.”
Reggie McKenzie is one of the good people in sports. The 2014 season will begin to tell if the McKenzie way is the right way to get wins on the football field. He was the Director of Player Personnel when the Packers won it all in 2010. The Raider Nation has high hopes that he will build another championship with the silver and black.