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ALAMEDA — The Raiders introduced Mike Mayock as their new general manager Monday, with the renowned NFL Network draft analyst flanked by owner Mark Davis and head coach Jon Gruden in the auditorium at Raiders HQ.
The Raiders’ season ended Sunday in Kansas City with a 35-3 loss to the Chiefs, a game Mayock watched from the press box. He told reporters before the game he was there by coincidence even as his name surfaced as a Raiders general manager candidate prior to kickoff. Maybe his presence at Arrowhead Stadium wasn’t such a coincidence after all.
Here are three big takeaways from Mayock’s introduction before the Raiders’ hectic offseason rebuild gets underway.
Will Mayock’s lack of front-office experience impact this job?
Mayock has never worked in an NFL front office, even if he’s been around them for 15 years for his NFL Network job. Scouting prospects and projecting your opinions on them through a television screen is one thing. Determining which ones can lift your team from the NFL’s gutter is another.
Mayock was asked Monday why he doesn’t think joining a front-office staff for the first time at age 60 will be a hindrance.
“It’s a good question. I think it’s a fair question, too,” he said. “I think the one way to answer it from my perspective is for the last 15 years I think I’ve tried to be the GM for all 32 teams and because of that, from a scheme perspective, I think I’m sound. I think I’ve been used to evaluating all kinds of different players at all kinds of different positions from every team in the league.”
Mayock said he was up front with Davis and Gruden during their interview that adjusting to running a team on a daily basis will take time.
“I just need a little help with the mechanics,” Mayock said.
The Steelers drafted Mayock in 1981, and he played safety for the Giants from 1982-83. He has worked for NFL Network since 2004, and become one of the game’s most well-respected draft analysts.
Here’s Gruden’s take on why Mayock’s lack of front-office experience won’t hold the operation back:
“I know Mayock is going to energize our building. He’s a great people person. He’s got great people skills,” Gruden said. “He’ll learn fast what he needs to learn. He’s already met with (director of college scouting) Shaun Herock. I think he’s going to be able to adapt to the personnel that we have in place and put his own spin on things quickly. He’s got great people skills and he’s a quick learner.”
How will Mayock and Gruden co-exist?
Gruden and Reggie McKenzie weren’t going to work together beyond this season, even before Davis offered McKenzie the chance to ride out the season before getting fired. Gruden insisted there was no disconnect between the two, but the worst kept secret in the NFL was that head coach’s voice overpowered the general manager’s in Oakland.
The Raiders needed someone who will both challenge Gruden and truly have his ear, and maybe even make some personnel decisions. Gruden and Mayock have known each other for 20 years – Mayock harped on Monday that they’ll get along because they both talk football, football and more football – and time will tell if Mayock is simply another Gruden puppet or someone whose voice actually carries some weight on the second floor at team headquarters.
Mayock said he received around 300 text messages, some from “football guys” telling him what a great fit he is with Gruden. The Raiders’ new general manager has had opportunities to join a team’s front office before – he wouldn’t delve into specifics, except we know Al Davis considered Mayock for a high-ranking personnel job in 2007 – but said the situation he sees now with Gruden was one he couldn’t pass up.
“I’ve said for a lot of years that when the right opportunity came for me personally, and from a big picture with the right fit, I was going to make the move. I’m not going to get into individual circumstances, as I said earlier, but I never thought those two things converged,” Mayock said. ” … I felt the energy 20 years ago. I feel even more. I know we’re going to argue about some guys, and I can’t wait. It really comes down to, what do you think, you’ve watched all this tape, what do I think and let’s get to the right answer for the Oakland Raiders. It doesn’t have to be your guy or my guy. Let’s get the right answer. So all I can tell you is I felt the fit here more than I ever have.”
It was clear Gruden spearheaded the Khalil Mack trade, but he said at the time he wasn’t involved in sending a second-round pick to the Bears, too. After the Amari Cooper trade, McKenzie said he was the one handling the trade call with the Cowboys. Asked who would handle trade calls in the near future as Mayock gets accustomed to his new role, Gruden brought the jokes.
“If it’s a good trade, I’ll make the calls,” Gruden said. “If it’s a bad trade, it’ll be Mayock.”
Gruden downplayed any rift between he and McKenzie throughout their one season together. Both men on the stage Monday sang the same song again, but we’ll see if that harmony leads to any substantial results.
What are benefits to coaching Senior Bowl?
The Raiders’ staff will oversee the North team in the Senior Bowl at the end of January as one of the league’s two worst teams with their staffs still intact. The 49ers staff will coach the South.
The Raiders found right tackle Brandon Parker, punter Johnny Townsend and wide receiver Marcell Ateman in the 2018 Senior Bowl before drafting them. This year the Raiders have three first-round picks, and several projected first-rounders will venture to Mobile, Ala. the week of Jan. 21.
Mayock has been heavily involved in scouting the Senior Bowl during his time as a draft analyst, so much so that Gruden joked Monday that Mayock will run for office in Mobile.
“Honestly last time I coached the senior bowl as head coach of the Raiders, we drafted Eric Barton, Rod Coleman, it was a great tool for us, in Tampa and in Oakland,” Gruden said. “We have three picks in the first round. We also pick in every other round, and we also have the potential to add players after the draft. It will give our coaches, I think to go to Mobile in front of the entire NFL, and show what kind of coaching staff we have, show the energy, the enthusiasm we have as a staff. We’re going to sell ourselves to the players. If we can eliminate two or three players by coaching the Senior Bowl, sometimes that’s just as important as finding two or three players that you really want. It will be the fourth time that I’ve done it and we have to do a good job in this draft and the best way to do it is be as close as possible to the players.”
Mayock made an example of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz to illustrate how he’s found value in the Senior Bowl. Of course this time, he’ll have a specific fit in mind when watching the players this year as opposed to a general scouting eye.
“I always felt I did a better job when I got to know the players a little bit. You take Carson Wentz, for instance. He went to the Senior Bowl and kind of announced himself. I got to know him a little bit there, and then we go to the combine, spent some time with him, let’s go to Fargo, North Dakota and you start talking about quarterbacks and every position for that matter,” Mayock said. “The more you find out what makes a kid tick, the better you can evaluate that kid. I came away from Carson Wentz banging the table at that point just because I felt so strongly for the kid. That’s just an example.
“I think when you get to the Senior Bowl and you get the access to these kids and the opportunity to see both teams practice, how they practice, how they retain information, how they process information, both in an install basis and mechanics on the field, I think it’s just a huge advantage and we’ve been talking about this for several days now hoping this would come together.”