The transcript of Tuesday’s press conference with new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis:
Mark Davis: Three months ago on Oct. 8, 2011 at 3 a.m. I received a phone call from Dr. General Hilliard that my father had passed away. It was a sad day for the Raider Nation and all of the players, coaches and fans who have worn the famed silver and black over the last 48 years. I had two immediate goals, one short-term and one long-term. My short-term goal was to make sure the season continued with as little disruption as possible and to reach our goal of making the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. In that regard I asked John Madden to join me in a meeting with coach Jackson where we discussed the optimum working relationship between the coach and myself. My short-term goal went great for about five days then Jason Campbell broke his right clavicle in the game. The following week we lost Darren McFadden to a foot injury which unknowingly at the time turned out to be a season-ending injury. At one point in the season we were 7-4 and two games ahead of the division and then we lost four of the next five to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. To say the least it was certainly a disappointment. My long-term goal was to research and identify a general manager to lead the Raider organization into the future. I consulted with Ron Wolf to help me identify potential candidates, one of which was Reggie McKenzie. Unfortunately league rules prohibited us from contacting any current employees from other NFL teams until the end of the regular season. So for three months I did extensive research into all the potential candidates for the job, but early on I recognized that Reggie McKenzie was the man I was looking for to lead the Raiders into the future. On January 1st the shackles were off and we were finally able to ask the Green Bay Packers for permission to interview Reggie McKenzie to become general manager of the Raiders. On Jan. 2nd, the Packers graciously granted that permission. I called Reggie, we spoke briefly and I made plans for him to fly in for an interview. We met with John Madden for about six hours and reached an agreement that Reggie would become the general manager of the Oakland Raiders. After the meeting I texted Reggie that my father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in the future. Reggie, the future is now.
Reggie McKenzie: Thank you guys for showing up. I appreciate the warm welcome. First of all I’d like to thank God, thank my family, my wife and kids especially. I’d like to take time to thank the Green Bay Packers for giving me the opportunity to see football in a different light. I’d like to thank the Raiders organization, Mark you especially. I look forward to working with you as we continue to building the legacy your father built. The legacy of the Raiders is steeped in tradition but with all things there comes a time when change is necessary. For the Raiders the time is now. The Raider organization, with respect and deference for all its tradition and history is about to embark on a new era. This era is in the forefront right now and I’m proud to be in leadership to be moving this organization into the new era. Early this morning I informed coach Hue Jackson that he was relieved of his head coaching duties. I have a lot of respect for coach Jackson and I wished him well as he moved forward into his future. But as we embark on this era of change, one thing will remain constant, and that is our commitment to excellence. From this day forward there will be one common unified goal from everybody in this organization, from the accountants to the new head coach. Everybody will have a place and everyone will have a piece of this organization. It is my part and my job to manage this transition, to identify what works and what needs to be done differently so that we can play the kind of football that our owners and fans so much deserve. My approach is old school. I’m a roll up the sleeves type of guy, just wake up in the early in the morning like iron workers and come prepared to get the job done. When this building is all working together, this building and all the people in here, all working together for one common goal we’re going to be able to feel it. We’re going to feel each other. That’s when we know we have a winner. We will win championships here. I’m going to keep this short because we have a lot of work to do and I am eager to get this thing started. Thank you.
Q: Did you consider giving Hue one year to prove himself?
Reggie McKenzie: Within the last couple of days the decision was made … the decision was made before I came in this morning. Yes, I followed and I researched coach Jackson and the Raiders this season this year so my decision was made prior to this morning.
Q: So why did you fire Hue?
Reggie McKenzie: Well, like I said, the decision to move forward and where we’re going into this new era, it’s going to be a time for change and I felt there was a need for change at the coaching position from the top, so we’re moving into a new era. No disrespect coach Jackson but this is something I want to do, start anew.
Q: Was it a gut feel for you?
Reggie McKenzie: Number one, I want my guy. Everything is based on performance but I go with my gut a lot. So when it’s time to make the final call, my gut’s going to tell me one thing. When I met, interviewed with Mr. Davis, Mark told me the general manager will have the power to hire and fire the coach. Recently I let him know that I would like to move on from coach Jackson and begin my search for a new head coach. He was OK with that.
Q: Was it time for change?
Mark Davis: Change happened on October 8th. We had to bring this full around. The one thing I know is what I don’t know. The one thing I did know was I needed to bring the right people in here. I had the right people to consult with, with Ron Wolf, John Madden and those kinds of people. We discussed a lot of things about the Raiders organization and which way it should go. My feeling always has been that if my father wasn’t here we needed someone to run that football side of the building. I needed to find the right person. I truly believe that Reggie McKenzie is the right man for this job and I think you’ll all see that as we go along.
Q: Thoughts on Hue?
Mark Davis: He did some things great. But like I said, we ended up 8-8, we didn’t make the playoffs. Injuries were a key part of that. That’s not where we want to be. I have a lot of respect for Hue Jackson. He brought a lot to this organization. As Reggie said it is time to move forward. That’s what we’re going to do.
Q: Hue and his agent were under the impression that Hue was coming back for 2012. Were you guys up front and honest with Hue, or did he know in advance that it wasn’t happening? At 8-8 with a QB going down and start RB going down, what would have been acceptable for him to save his job?
Mark Davis: Well, if you’re asking, 8-8 was … We were 7-4 and we lost four of our last five games, but that had nothing to do with the hiring or firing. It’s more so to move in a new direction and that Reggie put his stamp on this organization. That’s really why it’s happening.
Q: Was Hue aware before today that he was being fired?
Reggie McKenzie: Well, for one, I had just signed the contract. Informing coach Jackson prior to today was not going to happen because I had no authority. Now, if he – misleading may have come by the media or friends or what he thought, but we gave no indication one way or the other at all until this morning.
Q: What’s your plan for the coaching search? Do you have someone in mind? When would you like to hire someone? Do you have a criteria? The Raiders have long had offensive minded coaches….
Reggie McKenzie: I’ll try to answer one question at a time. The search will begin immediately. We would start the interview process. I have my short list. The criteria is it doesn’t matter offense or defense of my coaches. We just want a winner, a guy we feel can lead this team and move it forward as we embark here on this new era. The coach for this Raider organization, the next coach will be a coach that we all feel will lead us to our ultimate goal, and that is winning championships. Offense or defensive coordinator types really will play no influence. The No. 1 is he can lead, motivate and move our players and our team to victories.
Q: What about prior head coaching experience?
Reggie McKenzie: It will not matter if he’s been a head coach or not.
Q: Your opinion of Carson Palmer as a quarterback and the trade that brought him here?
Reggie McKenzie: No. 1, as a personnel guy, I love my picks. No. 1, I love more, I love good players. Now, bringing in Carson at the time the Raiders brought him in, to me, as a player, that’s a good move. You have to get players that can help you win games. Now, did the position of the situation present itself favorably for Cincinnati? Absolutely. But you do what you have to do. That’s just the way it is, the cost of doing business. You’re trying to help your team win. You can’t put parameters from a standpoint of knowing the possibility was not as good, on the other hand. But as far as Carson Palmer is concerned, I think he’s a good quarterback. Period.
Q: Did you interview any other GM candidates?
Mark Davis: No I didn’t.
Q: My do you think the Raiders have not had success the last nine years?
Reggie McKenzie: I can’t tell you what’s happened within this organization the last nine years, but following those guys during those times, you saw a lot of changes. Consistency played a big part, but Mark Davis has told me that he wants long-term success, and we’re going to start it right now. To begin, we’re going to have to build. That’s where our mindset is, and that’s where it is moving forward.
Q: Is Winston Moss on your short list? Also, as look at this team and personnel, do you have enough bullets to change it – picks, salary cap space to make changes that need to be made?
Reggie McKenzie: No. 1, with the short list, I will not name names until absolutely needed. Do we have enough bullets? Absolutely. We have some players in place. Now, do we have enough draft picks? No, we don’t. But we can find players in different ways. We’re going to work the college free agent market. You’ve got to work the waiver wire. You’ve got to work the lower tier unrestricted free agency. You don’t have to go after top-dollar players just to improve your team. Trust me, I’ve got 18 years of experience to know how to build a team. Draft picks, they’ll come, but we’ll figure out a way to get around that. And as far a cap, we will manage the cap. If we don’t have room right now, we’ll figure out a way to get some room. When there are players involved that we some room, we’ll figure it out. That’s our job.
Q: Will you choose assistant coaches or leave it to your head coach?
Reggie McKenzie: I’m not gonna have any say-so. What I’m gonna do is empower the head coach to hire his staff, the best possible staff that he can hire. We’re not gonna tie the guy’s hands and tell him he has to hire this guy or this guy. It wouldn’t be fair to the new head coach. The head coach will have the right to hire any coach that he wants.
Q: Are you on a specific deadline to hire a head coach?
Reggie McKenzie: I would like sooner than better. But if I have to wait, I’ll wait. I’m gonna work my tail off to hire the best coach. The best fit. And that’s all that’s gonna matter right now. And that will start now. And however long it takes, that’s how long it will take. But we want to get the right guy.
Q: Mark, did your father leave behind any ideas or suggestions?
Reggie McKenzie: I haven’t found any plans yet. But I used to talk to my dad every night. We’d talk on the phone every night and talk about football and the organization and things of that nature. So I had a good idea of what he thought, but we never talked about specific people or anything like that. But I know he had high regard for Reggie.
Lights go off and screen ominously comes down behind rostrum, Apparently someone leaded on a switch
Mark Davis: Is this candid still? … There you go. See? You talk about him. It’s your fault, Scott.
Q: Mark, are you trying to weigh your father’s wishes or plot your own course?
Mark Davis: No, I think it’s based on just bringing the Raiders to greatness, and that’s always been his goal, and to win. And that’s my goal. And we’re doing it in a different way because I don’t know what my dad knew. He knew talent. He knew all these things. And it’s a big void to fill when he passed on. And that’s why Reggie is gonna be taking over that whole football side, because I believe he’s the man that can do it.
Q: Reggie, how much will you follow the organizational model you learned in Green Bay?
Reggie McKenzie: Very much. I’ve seen how that works. It’s the same relationship Ron Wolf had with coach Mike Holmgren. I think when you have a great relationship from the top, it filters down. The Packer organization is done right, and that’s why I’m gonna make sure our chain of command is done that way. It will factor a lot.
Q: Reggie, were the penalties a big factor in your decision to can Hue?
Reggie McKenzie: You know what? I’m not gonna focus on any one situation. But you look into everything. You look into the entire season and how it went, all the way to not making the playoffs. Because there were big expectations for that team. So it’s no one incident at all.
Q: And are you a 3-4 guy or a 4-3 guy defensively?
Reggie McKenzie: I like ‘em both. Just give me some players. If you got the great players, you can do whatever you want. That’s what I want.
Q: Mark, how involved will you be in choosing head coach and other team activities?
Mark Davis: Reggie’s gonna be running the show there. But we will consult quite a bit. We will be talking a lot. That’s about all I can say on that. Reggie’s gonna be making the decisions, and that’s the way it should be. There’s other things that I have to do within the organization, and I’ll be able to focus on those now, which I was taken away from for a while.
Q: Reggie, how much interaction do you want from Mark moving forward?
Reggie McKenzie: Ditto what Mark said. He empowered me, and we will consult, often. I told Mark, don’t turn off his cell phone. I’ll be calling him. No, it will be a great relationship.”
Q: Reggie, will 3-4 defense or West Coast offense have any bearing on who you hire as head coach?
Reggie McKenzie: Ultimately, no. But once we get down to specifics and the presentation and I look into that, yes. That’s what I’m familiar with. But I’m OK with anything that works and helps you win. But that is what I’m accustomed to. But it’s not gonna be my deciding factor, no.
Q: How would you describe yourself as an owner?
Mark Davis: How would I describe myself as an owner?
Q: Are you hands on, hands off, meddling, letting things take their course, how would you describe yourself?
Mark Davis: I would say I’m an observer. I like to observe things and see how things are going and then actually act on those types of things that I see. I’m not the type of person that’s gonna make a decision on certain things. Obviously with Carson, that was a decision that was probably one of the fastest things that I’ve ever been involved with and if we’d have had more time it would have been nice but we didn’t. But normally I’m pretty, uh, I like to observe things and see how they are. I guess I’ve got patience.”
Q: Reggie, other than the opportunity to become an NFL GM what were your reasons for taking this job?
Reggie McKenzie: The better question is ‘what are the reasons I wouldn’t take this job.’ I mean, I’ll be here…yall won’t eat dinner tonight with all the reasons I have to take this job. Guys, this is where I came from. I’m back home now. I’m back home. The job was easy [decision]. As soon as Mark told me ‘we want you for the job’ I couldn’t, you know, I couldn’t stop smiling. You saw how deep my dimples run. I was excited. I was excited. Truly there are a lot of reasons to be a part of this organization. And I’m just glad I’m coming back home to help this organization reach greatness. That’s what I want. It’s a dream job.
Q: Do you see a series of hires happening now as far as a director of football operations etc?
Reggie McKenzie: I am aware of those types of things but the thing is I’m gonna evaluate the situation and go from there. There will be no quick decisions at all because the last thing I would want is to let go of someone and he turns out to be a Pro Bowl type player. That’s, you know, mistakes will happen. They happen because of haste and I don’t want to act in haste. So we’ll evaluate all our personnel and when the time comes when it’s time to make a move, if we have to, we will. But we’re gonna improve every aspect of this organization. From players, coach, player personnel, it doesn’t matter. Guy who parks the car, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a chance to upgrade and get better, we’re gonna do it.
Q: Mark, is there any chance you’re gonna sell the team?
Mark Davis: Are you making me an offer? (laughter) Tim? No, there’s no intention to sell this team. This is my life. It’s been my life for, well, I’ve been with the Raiders for 48 years. And my whole thing is to continue the legacy that my father built here and I’ve got one of the largest extended families in the world. And that’s what all these former players and everybody else that’s been in this organization and they mean a lot to me and this organization represents them as well as they represent us and that’s where it’s gonna stay.
Q: Where is the future site of a stadium?
Mark Davis: Well, that’s…When I said that I’ll have some time to work on some other things, I’ve been working on other stadium situations for about a year and a half. We’re trying to get something done up here but if we can’t we’ve gotta get something done somewhere because we need to be able to compete. And that’s where it’s at.
Q: Santa Clara?
Mark Davis: Santa Clara’s a potential possibility.
Q: Mark, do you feel this is a playoff team right now looking at the roster?
Mark Davis: Yeah, I felt it was. Then we lost Darren McFadden…
Q: You believe Hue was given the tools to make this a playoff team?
Mark Davis: Yeah, I do.
Q: Did injuries derail things?
Mark Davis: Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes.
Q: Reggie, what type of culture would you like to like to build here?
Reggie McKenzie: For one, hard working, dedicated, all working for one common goal. I want the organization to communicate with each other, have great communication. Great communication amongst players and coaches. Great communication amongst coaches and scouts. Everybody being on one accord. That’s what I said one unified common goal. That’s how you win. Everybody walking to the same beat. The same purpose, the same goal. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. Now, from the standpoint of the chain of command and all that, that process has already started today. It’ll be a work in progress. We’re going to keep plugging away. I just want to make sure we have a structure that is highly conducive to winning. And I only know one way. I’ve been working at it for the last eighteen years and it started with Ron Wolf, what he implemented in Green Bay. And when I got there in 94, I saw how it…that’s the only way I saw and that’s the only way I know. So we’re gonna roll up our sleeves and work at it. We’re gonna get better that’s for sure.
Q: What is your top priority?
Reggie McKenzie: The top priority is trying to get this personnel staff together, and the figure out the team, talent and where we need to upgrade. And it steps into that from meetings to going to the Senior Bowl, the Combine, the draft preparations, it’s all about the team from here on out. Trying to upgrade every area. And that’s pretty much it. This is about making sure we have the best group of players that we can possibly field. That’s what it’s all about. This offseason we will get the top 80 players that we can have. We want the best 80. We will not stop working until we get the best 80.
Q: What about Jason Campbell? Chance to come in and compete with Palmer?
Reggie McKenzie: Competition will be at every position. No one is going to have a job handed to them. You don’t get better that way. Who that is, that’s’ going to be day to day, checking the waiver wire, day to day evaluations. We’ll find good players to compete with the good players that we have everyday. So, Carson Palmer will not be immune to a good player behind him pushing him. That’s how you get better.
Q: A lot of players go into coaching and broadcasting. What drew you into personnel and scouting?
Reggie McKenzie: If you ask me if I aspired … I did not aspire to be a scout during my playing days. Actually, I was graduate assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. Just by chance we had a couple of good players, Charlie Garner and Heath Shuler, those guys came out that year and Ron Wolf came down to showcase and he saw me working as a coach there. So he got word to a coach on our staff that he wanted to interview me. A week later I came up for an interview and I have been a scout ever since. That’s how it worked. It came knocking on my door. It was a godsend, because this definitely what I want to do.
Q: Biggest strength of this team right now and biggest weakness?
Reggie McKenzie: No. 1, as far as a strength, I am one day on the job – let me evaluate., let me look at every aspect – not just on tape. I need to feel what these players are all about as people. Because that locker room is going to be a sacred place. You need guys working together in that place. You don’t want to add guys that are going to tear away from it. So, we’ll evaluate not only the players – see what positions we’re strong at, there are a lot of players I like on this roster – but we want to take the chance to look deeper. Because I wouldn’t do it any justice to make a peripheral judgement on our group.
Q: Did anybody else besides Madden sit in on interview, and do you see a role for him going forward?
Mark Davis: No, I think John is happy doing what he’s doing, taking care of his grandkids and everything else. This is the only interview we did together. And it was the only interview I did for this position. I had to wait three months to do it and I knew by then who I wanted.
Q: Was anyone else besides Madden in the room?
Mark Davis: No.
Q: You were a 10th round pick out of Tennessee, can you talk about your playing days, what did you glean from that? How has that made you a better GM? If things go back you’re not going to throw your twin brother at us, are you?
Reggie McKenzie: If I bring in my twin brother he’ll probably end up firing a whole lot more guys, because he needs his space. He’s a little bit bigger than I am. Being drafted in the 10th round, and my playing days here, a lot of great memories. Played with a great group of guys. I was, when I walked into the building, I was greeted by some of my teammates. That was great to see. I did not expect that. So whoever was involved with getting some of my teammates here, I appreciated it. It’s good to see the guys that are happy to see me get this job. I had a great time playing. Being a part of the Raider organization, I didn’t know how great it was, we were always talked about. Everybody talked about the Raiders and I was a country kid from Knoxville, Tennessee, and I’m a rock star. I couldn’t believe it. But everybody follows the Raiders and until this day, the Raiders are the team to be.
Q: Different team-building philosophies, starting at QB work your way out, starting with the lines, work way out, your philosophy on building a team, where to start, how do you want your team to look?
Reggie McKenzie: Without getting too detailed, the bottom line, you want to make sure you’ve got productive, good football players. What that means is, it’s not totally talent. I want some guys who love to play the game. That’s going to play hard, that’s going to play tough. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for some guys who want to play and want to win. A will to compete. And you can find that in a guy easily. Because guys that don’t really like football, they show up, they show up. But as far as building a team positionally, any time I can add a player, that’s going to help this Raider team, he’s going to be added. I like big and strong, always will. I like speed, that’s not gonna change, we want good football players.
Q: Your reaction to Hue’s comments after the season, being pissed at players, wanting a stronger hand in organization?
Mark Davis: I don’t think I want to comment on that.
Q: What was the players’ reaction to Hue, was his message received in locker room. You said Hue had tools to succeed here . . .
Mark Davis: First of all, what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. I’ll leave it at that.
Q: How about discussions outside locker room?
Mark Davis: Discussing those kinds of things is, when I talk to people I talk to them privately. Off the record, let’s say. I prefer not to talk about what other people think.
Q: Based on what I’ve heard today, I wish you the best of luck first of all Mr. McKenzie, how much of a disappointment will it be if Reggie McKenzie doesn’t get you to the playoffs in his first year with the Raiders?
Mark Davis: Well, Reggie’s not playing.
Q: Neither was Hue, though, right? I’m just trying to say, it didn’t work for Hue . . .
Mark Davis: I think as I said before, I’ve got patience. I’ve got patience. And what we’re doing is building the future now. And Reggie’s got whatever he needs to do it, and it’s not going to be a disappointment.
Q: I’m not trying to be an argumentative mood or anything . . .
Mark Davis: I’m not, either.
Q: I’m just letting you know because I’m going to follow up, it’s contradictory to what you’re saying, if you’re saying that Hue Jackson was let go because of what . . .
Mark Davis: I didn’t say he was let go for anything.
Q: But you did say this is a playoff team?
Mark Davis: Sure. But we’re not right now, because we didn’t make it.
Q: With the roster set the way it is right now, and you guys are talking about upgrading, if you don’t get to the playoffs next year, why is the next coach’s job not on the line the way Hue Jackson’s job was on the line this year?
Mark Davis: You want to ask me that after the season? I don’t think the question makes sense here.
Q: Doesn’t make much sense?
Mark Davis: Not to me.
Q: What I’m trying to find out then, can anyone pinpoint why Hue Jackson was let go and then my next question will make more sense?
Mark Davis: Can anybody pinpoint why Hue Jackson was let go . . . ask the man that let him go.
Q: All right, then I’m asking him . . .
Reggie McKenzie: Right from the beginning I’ve said I’m not going to go into details, point by point, of what he did and what he didn’t do. This decision centered around my wanting to bring my own guy in, OK? That’s the main point. Now, if Hue would have finished 7-0 down the stretch and they made the playoffs, of course that would have played a role. But you look into every dynamic. The way the team was failing at the end, you just don’t look at one different point, injuries, this and that, but it’s just the way things went. It had nothing to do with the press conference, that didn’t matter to me. Everybody says things they wish they’d taken back. I’ve said a lot of things I wish I hadn’t said. But that’s not going to make my determination. It’s, what do we want to do, how we want to move forward, and when you’re moving forward, from the top, you got a head coach, I want to bring my guy in. And Mark was OK with that. Period. That’s what we want.
Q: Final question, do you see more problems on the offensive side or the defensive side of the ball?
Reggie McKenzie: Well, the way, you can look at the way the season, I think Joe Fan could see the defense struggled at the end. We played ‘em, and we had a pretty good day against the defense, so that being said, we’re going to have to upgrade on both sides of the ball, there’s always room for upgrade. I’m not saying here we got the answers on offense, because we don’t. We turn the ball over too much. We’ve still got penalties. You can go on and on and on, but the bottom line is, let’s get this new guy in place and let’s let him have a chance to put his system in place and put his mission statement together for that locker room.