If they want to be anything more than a joke to the rest of the NFL, the Raiders will have to make some critical structural changes this offseason.
Al Davis ran a one-man show, and when he died, he left a total vacuum. Amy Trask handles financial and legal matters, but she doesn’t make football decisions. Long-time front-office holdover John Herrera has done myriad jobs, but none of them has involved making football decisions.
So, the first task for owner Mark Davis will be to hire a general manager.
There is no shortage of good candidates. Bill Polian, who will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his work with Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis, is available because he was fired by the Colts after their 2-14 campaign, though he may retire.
Many football people in the league believe the leading candidate in Oakland is Reggie McKenzie, the Green Bay Packers director of personnel. And ESPN reported late Thursday that he and the Raiders were working to finalize a deal.
He’s been recommended by Ron Wolf, who played an important role in the early success of the Raiders. McKenzie also played for the Raiders during their Los Angeles years. He is known for his success in spotting good players in lower rounds of the draft, which would be a valuable asset this year because the Raiders don’t have a draft choice until the fifth round.
If something falls through with McKenzie, there are other possibilities. One is Nick Casario, director of the New England Patriots, favorites to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.
The general manager needs the authority to hire other football people for the front office, as well as somebody to manage the salary cap. The last will be a difficult job because Davis gave much-too-generous contracts to Stanford Routt, Kamerion Wimberly and Michael Huff before last season.
Because of the turmoil, Hue Jackson will probably survive as coach, but unless he changes his methods drastically, he should be replaced after next season. In 2011, he proved that, as a coach, he was a good offensive coordinator.
I’d love to see Jon Gruden return. Gruden has been the one bright spot since the Raiders returned to Oakland, because he challenged Davis to bring in good players instead of those who had good times in the 40-yard dash or looked good in the weight room.
Some think that Gruden, who has become an excellent analyst on TV, won’t return to the grind of coaching, but the Jon Gruden I knew in Oakland would welcome the challenge, especially since he wouldn’t have to continually fight to get the right players.
When the front office is organized, Mark Davis and his mother, Carol, should bow out. They inherited a 47 percent share in the franchise but, because of the way Al Davis’ contract was structured, that gives them controlling interest.
Perhaps they could keep a 5 percent share, but they should sell the rest and give up their control so football people can take over. It’s past time for the Raiders to be run as a football operation, not a cult.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.