Although it hasn't been officially announced, the Oakland Raiders are expected to name Green Bay Packers Director of Football Operations Reggie McKenzie as their new General Manager. It would mark the first time someone other than Al Davis has called the shots on a permanent basis for the Raiders organization since the early 1960's.
While the hiring of a general manager is something that Raiders fans have been demanding for years, many people outside NFL front office circles don't know a whole lot about McKenzie or what his job with the Packers entails.
McKenzie played linebacker in the NFL for the Raiders, Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers after being selected as a tenth round pick out of Tennessee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in personnel management.
In 1993, one year after retiring as a player in the NFL, McKenzie returned to Tennessee as an assistant, helping lead the Volunteers to the Florida Citrus Bowl and landing one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, which included coveted quarterback Peyton Manning. While back at Tennessee, McKenzie also pursued a master’s degree in education administration.
McKenzie joined the Green Bay Packers in 1994 as a pro personnel assistant and was promoted to Director of Pro Personnel by current Raiders scout and former Packers General Manager Ron Wolf in 1997. In 2008, he was named Director of Football Operations for the Packers.
McKenzie certainly has an impressive resume and his steady rise in one of the most professional and winning franchises in the NFL only lends more weight to his credentials. But what exactly was McKenzie's day-to-day job as "Director of Football Operations"?
According to the Packers,
"McKenzie oversees Green Bay’s scouting efforts of all professional football leagues, including the NFL, CFL and Arena Football League, as well as all other pro leagues and international players. He also plays an integral role in judging the Packers’ current players and evaluating potential free agents across the league. McKenzie is heavily involved in all of the team’s moves on a daily basis, including all tryouts and transactions."
Impressive, considering Green Bay's success during his time with the team (seven division titles, three conference championships, wins in Super Bowls XXXI and XLV and a 15-1 juggernaut this season that is expected to repeat last year's Super Bowl Championship).
Additionally, in his position with Green Bay, McKenzie "provides advance scouting reports on upcoming opponents, working closely with the coaching staff, and contributes to the scouting of college prospects, making school visits in both the fall and spring, and works in conjunction with General Manager Ted Thompson in preparation for the annual draft."
Clearly, the man knows football and knows football players. McKenzie is the type of evaluator and judge of talent that the Oakland Raiders have sorely missed for years. With all due respect to what Al Davis built in the 1960's to the 1980's, his eye for talent was sorely lacking in the last two decades (do we need to mention Todd Marinovich, JaMarcus Russell or any of the other busts to prove that point?). McKenzie appears to be the man to step in and change the culture of the Raiders.
There is one potential pitfall, however. According to NFL.com, head coach Hue Jackson's contract stipulates that he reports directly to ownership (Al Davis' son, Mark). For a highly sought after candidate like McKenzie, a crooked chain of command like the one currently in place in Oakland could be enough to cause him to take his talents elsewhere. It's up to Mark Davis to establish that McKenzie will be the boss, and will not be undermined by a coach that has no obligation to report to him.
The McKenzie hiring, if it happens as planned, has the potential to be a watershed moment in Raiders history. It could mark a new dawn in Raider Nation, where winning championships, not old rhetoric, would be the order of the day.