Reggie McKenzie Is the Best General Manager in Football

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Via Last Word On Football, by Ryan Smith

One of the biggest sub-plots in the NFL in 2016 was the revival of the Oakland Raiders. After a decade of dormancy, the Oakland Raiders have a winning record, and will make the playoffs in 2016. It’s easy to give credit to incredible players like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, and head coach Jack Del Rio certainly deserves all the credit in the world. But without general manager Reggie McKenzie, none of this would be possible.

Reggie McKenzie Is the Best General Manager in Football

#FireReggie

It’s impossible to discuss what Reggie McKenzie has done for the Oakland Raiders without discussing his flaws. As great as McKenzie has been, he hasn’t always been perfect. As great as his drafts have been lately, this wasn’t always the case.

2013 NFL Draft

This was Reggie McKenzie’s first real draft with the team, and to say it didn’t go well is an understatement. His first pick, cornerback D.J. Hayden, has not lived up to expectations, and despite missing the entire month of December due to injury, still leads the team in penalties.

After Hayden was Menelik Watson, a big but raw tackle that was supposed to eventually start on the left side for the Raiders. Watson is currently starting at right tackle, and has shown flashes, but lack of development and a series of injuries have prevented Watson from living up to his full potential.

The next three players were absolute misses. Sio Moore played well at points, but was mostly a liability and eventually was traded from the team. Tyler Wilson was one of McKenzie’s first quarterback projects, and he never threw a single pass in the NFL. Tight end Nick Kasa did a little better, catching one pass for nine yards.

However, the next three players were pretty solid. How solid? All three are still on the team. Halfback Latavius Murray has been a pleasant surprise, and is still starting. Tight end Mychal Rivera has had a strong second half to his season, and Stacy McGee is a great player in spots.

Free Agent and Trade Misses

Reggie McKenzie’s veteran acquisitions weren’t always great either. Matt Flynn, Justin Tuck, Maurice Jones-Drew, Nick Roach, and others came and went without really making the Raiders better. Tuck helped teach the likes of Carr and Mack how to be leaders. He was a leader off the field, but he didn’t bring much to the team on it.

McKenzie struggled early in his role with the team, but there’s more to it than just his record. McKenzie became general manager in 2012, and it took four years to get the team to a winning record, so how is he the best general manager in football?

Chicken Salad

Here are some facts about the Raiders team that Reggie McKenzie inherited. After spending $115,063,751, and trading all but two of their draft picks, the Raiders limped to 8-8 in an AFC West that was won by Tim Tebow. As a team, their quarterbacks threw more interceptions than touchdowns, their leading sacker had only seven and a half sacks.

The previous establishment, including the late, great Al Davis, and head coach Hue Jackson had buried the team with terrible contracts, mortgaging the future of the franchise on players like Carson Palmer and Aaron Curry. This team set the NFL record for most penalties in a season, and had one of the worst defenses in football.

So with no cap space, draft picks, or talent, how was Reggie McKenzie supposed to save the Raiders? It simply wasn’t possible.

Phoenix

In order for the phoenix to be reborn, it first has to burst into ash. The same is absolutely true for the Oakland Raiders. In order to begin the rebuilding process, Reggie McKenzie had to cut all of the dead weight and accept that the team just wasn’t going to be good right away.

Long-time Raiders like Stanford Routt, Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and others were shown the door. As good as they had been at points for the Raiders, they weren’t earning their massive contracts. McKenzie basically burned the team to the ground, swept up the ashes, and began anew.

As it stands right now, only halfback Taiwan Jones, long-snapper Jon Condo and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are left over from before McKenzie’s reign. Comparing the 2016 team to the 2011 team, it’s quite obvious that McKenzie improved the team at every single position, and it’s not even close.

Would you rather have a disinterested 31-year-old Carson Palmer or a 25-year-old Derek Carr? Darrius Heyward-Bey or Amari Cooper? Tommy Kelly or Khalil Mack? Once he was able to buy the groceries, Reggie McKenzie was able to cook one hell of a meal.

Reggie McKenzie Is the Best General Manager in Football

The Oakland Raiders were a punchline forever. Oakland was one of the worst teams in the NFL, and it felt like they would ever get better. This isn’t like giving Tom Brady a new weapon in New England, or assembling a good offense to pair with Kansas City’s defense. The Raiders were terrible, broke, and without draft picks. Nobody else could’ve gone into the Black Hole and pulled out a shooting star.