The Raiders ended their 2018 with a whimper and a 35-3 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Derek Carr’s struggles against the Chiefs continued and the offense couldn’t convert their production into points. Four offensive turnovers on the first four drives of the game ruined any realistic chance the Raiders had in this game and from there it was a case of getting through the game healthy to at least have a solid foundation to build from in 2019.
The biggest news of the day, however, was not their on-field performance, but rather, in their search to replace former general manager Reggie McKenzie. It emerged just before the start of yesterday’s game that NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has interviewed for the Raiders opening. Multiple sources have informed Silver & Black Today that Mayock is a leading candidate for the position.
This is not the first time the Raiders and Mayock have sounded each other out. Back when Al Davis was still alive in the early 2000s, he interviewed Mayock for a high-level front office executive position with the team, but they were unable to reach an agreement. The senior Davis loved Mayock’s eye for talent and there was legitimate mutual respect between the two.
Fast-forward a decade and Mayock is back firmly in the Raiders spotlight. Mayock recently interviewed with the Raiders and is the favorite for to fill the vacant position per multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Mayock’s strength lies in the NFL Draft, whereby he is universally regarded as the best on-air draft talent evaluator. Given the Raiders are positioned with five first-round picks in the next two years, nailing the draft is going to be essential for the Raiders to fast track their on-field rebuild. Head coach Jon Gruden might have the final say on all things related to player personnel, but contrary to popular opinion he is happy to delegate and will be placing a considerable amount of responsibility on whoever the new chief talent evaluator is within the organization.
Like Gruden 12 months ago, Mayock would be leaving a position in the media for a far more scrutinized position where the opinions and subsequent results, truly impact the performance of an entire organization. Their connection through the media should not go unnoticed whereby (despite being on different networks) the two men forged great mutual respect such that Gruden indeed trusts Mayock’s ability to evaluate talent.
Despite Gruden being the leader of the Raiders, Mark Davis must sign off all major organizational decisions. Like Gruden, Davis is an admirer of Mayock’s history with NFL network and supports Mayock’s potential arrival, we are told.
Since McKenzie’s dismissal, Gruden and Davis have moved quickly to interview a number of candidates, including a unnamed minority candidate. This means that the Raiders are able to hire anyone for the position immediately. Given that Gruden no longer has the season to navigate, this hire is expected to move quickly, quite possibly as early as this week.
A Quote to Remember
“He’s my favorite player. For a while there you don’t know your kicker’s name. I know this guy’s name…Long-range field goals, different climates, wet ball, high snap, low snap, on the road, cold weather, he has done it all for us.”
Head coach Jon Gruden on rookie kicker Daniel Carlson’s time with the Raiders.
A Tweet of Amusement
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 26, 2018
1. If any coaches are relieved of their duties in the coming days, they won’t be head-scratchers. There may be a coach or two moved on at the quality control level (or equivalent), but I am not expecting any head-turners, such as what was seen in 2017 when Bill Musgrave’s contract was not renewed as offensive coordinator in favor of quarterbacks coach Todd Downing.
2. Don’t expect the Raiders to finalize their stadium plans for 2019 until after the Super Bowl. Neither the Raiders nor the NFL want this issue to overshadow the playoffs and specifically, the Super Bowl.
3. The Chiefs will get knocked out of the playoffs in their first game in January. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has won just one playoff game since 2009, and I don’t see that trend changing any time soon.
7 Things I Think:
1. Jordy Nelson must be on the team in 2019, having emerged as Carr’s favorite target over the latter part of this season. Carr said that their chemistry had developed and Nelson was ready to take off in October, but an injury to Nelson’s knee slowed it right down. Now that Nelson has gotten over the injury bug, he’s been able to show off the connection with Carr. Had Nelson stayed injury free, he most likely would have over 1,000 receiving yards and 75 catches on the season. These numbers are very similar to former Raider Michael Crabtree’s production in Oakland. The Raiders lack reliable playmakers, and though he’s lost a step, Nelson has a reliable pair of hands and his wily route running ensure he should be on the roster for the final year of his contract. Having restructured his deal this week to lessen his cap hit in 2019, it is pretty much a lock Nelson will remain a Raider next season, which can only be seen as good news.
2. Barely two months ago it appeared as though Derek Carr’s time with the Raiders was coming to an end. However, Carr has really started to take further control of the offense, as he is now much more comfortable in the system. This has indeed translated into on-field production. Carr did not throw an interception for a 10-game stretch of the season, completed over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career and had the highest completion rate of his career 68.9% despite lacking proven receiving targets. All this came in spite of Carr being sacked a whopping 51 times. The quarterback market in 2019 is very thing given that potentifirst-roundund draft pick Justin Herbert has elected to remain at Oregon next season and the veteran market will be ‘headlined’ by aging veterans Joe Flacco and potentially Eli Manning. Even if Gruden had some reservations on Carr, his progression an comfort within the scheme, combined with the lack of viable alternative options, makes keeping Carr on the roster an essential necessity in 2019.
3. Doug Martin is a difficult player to evaluate. He has played decent at times, but his play doesn’t warrant the Raiders penciling him in as a sure-fire starter in 2019. He is a nice back to have in a by-committee system and given that Marshawn Lynch will likely not be a Raider next season, Martin would seemingly have a spot on the roster if he and the Raiders can come to a deal. If the Raiders were able to find a true No. 1 back like Le’Veon Bell this off-season, their running back set would be absolutely include Martin and pass-catching specialist Jalen Richard.
4. Kicker Daniel Carlson might be the best Raiders personnel story of the season. After going through four kickers in the off-season, the Raiders finally hit on lucky kicker number five. Carlson was sure-money this season and would appear to have the spot entrenched for him going forward. In a season whereby so much at that position went wrong, Carlson’s production provided a true silver lining.
5. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said this week that rookie edge rusher Arden Key would have about eight sacks on the year had he been able to get the quarterback on the ground. Key was hot and cold this season, but his lack of functional strength really got the better of him in this area. Functional strength was a real issue with the majority of the rookie draft class of 2018. Specifically speaking, Key, Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker all at times lacked the necessary strength to control the play. As they build into their bodies, their production and consistency should steadily improve.
6. The firing of strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw was described by Gruden as a “personal matter,” though there are a number of layers to it. In particular, the vast number of players on injured reserve suggests that Shaw’s program wasn’t up to muster for the Raiders in 2018. It will be interesting to see who replaces Shaw, be it internal or external, given that Gruden believes the head strength and conditioning coach is arguably the second most important coach (the head coach being No. 1) to establishing the necessary culture and environment that is conducive to winning in the fall.
7. It emerged last week that former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese refused to be interviewed by the Raiders for their high-level executive opening. It is well documented that there are growing concerns that the NFL doesn’t have enough minority candidate high-level front office positions around the league. Thus, it is concerning that Reese, himself a minority candidate, would turn down an opportunity to interview for such a position. Sure, Reese might not want the job, but it’s not the best look politically for a minority candidate to filter through interviews given the current political climate in the NFL.