NAPA _ For a guy who has yet to have a winning season as a general manager, Reggie McKenzie is living large.
The morning after owner Mark Davis announced at a Raider alumni dinner that McKenzie had signed a four-year contract extension, the architect of what is expected to be a silver and black renaissance signed autographs for grateful fans, many of whom probably wanted his head on a platter three years into a reconstruction phase.
“Mark Davis was committed to my plan,” McKenzie told reporters Saturday before the Raiders’ second practice of training camp. “I’m sure he had a lot of phone calls, a lot of people talking to him and saying, `Is Reggie the guy?’ ”
“It wasn’t going to be a quick fix. I’m not into quick fixes. It’s a process and it worked the way we planned. No we still haven’t had a winning season, but we feel good about the direction we’re going.”
Terms of McKenzie’s extension were not disclosed.
The Raiders were 11-37 in McKenzie’s first three seasons after he dismantled an 8-8 team coached by Hue Jackson and jettisoned bloated contracts to get the Raiders salary cap in order.
Last season brought a breakthrough of sorts under Jack Del Rio, who replaced McKenzie’s first head coach, Dennis Allen. McKenzie put together two good drafts, found a pass rusher in Khalil Mack and a quarterback in Derek Carr, and in the past offseason got rave reviews for his work in bringing in free agents at positions of need.
The next step for McKenzie is an entirely different dilemma, but a good problem to have for any general manager. He must figure out a way to maintain a sound salary structure while retaining key players. Within the next two years, Mack and Carr could become $20 million per season players.
“The plan is to keep good players,” McKenzie said. `Y’all could come beat me across the head if I let a Hall of Fame-type player leave this building.”
McKenzie said there has been a constant dialogue with the representation for both players, and believes the better the Raiders play, the more likely it is they’ll want to stay.
“I’ll take (their agents) out to dinner any time I see him,” McKenzie said. “We’ve fostered good relationships. The No. 1 thing is to get the good players that want to be here. You present a good vibe, coaching staff, good relationships with the players, and then you win.
“When you get a winning team, you don’t have to work has hard. Winning cures all. That’s what’s expected and that’s what we’re going to do.”
— McKenzie echoed Del Rio’s support for suspended linebacker Aldon Smith, who reportedly has sought treatment again for a substance issue.
“Our deal is to support Aldon from the standpoint of the person,” McKenzie said. “Whatever he does to insure his health, we’re going to stand behind him. We know his situation. It’s not like we had blinders. We knew a suspension was possible and it would be an uphill battle for him.
“He’s just going to have to fight the good fight. we’re not going to bail on him, but he has to do his part.”