Al Davis must be spinning in his grave. Raiders practices are open to the public? Horrors, everybody will know our secrets. Rich Gannon is invited to talk to players? That traitor! Assistant coaches are allowed to talk to the media?
The media are our enemies!
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie played four years for the Raiders, 1985-88, but he had also worked in the Green Bay organization since 1994. It’s clear which model he’s following. There are no more silly slogans. The Raiders are being run like a professional organization.
It’s as if he’s taken everything Davis did and is doing the opposite, which is very good news. McKenzie has lately been saying, “This is our way of doing things.” Not “the Raiders way.”
Everybody but the Kool-Aid drinkers realized that the Raiders had been going downhill under Davis’ increasingly erratic leadership. Since the Raiders last Super Bowl triumph in January 1984, they had made only three trips to the AFC Championship Game, winning one, and one trip to the Super Bowl, where they were routed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21. They had set a record for consecutive seasons with double-digit losses.
McKenzie has rid the roster of Davis’ pet players, who were overpaid. Players now know they can’t run to the head man if they don’t like what the coach is saying. McKenzie has made the Raiders a true team operation.
Because of his time with the Packers, McKenzie knows that there are several ways to build a winning team. One is by combing the waiver wires for low-profile free agents. If you look at the rosters of winning teams, you’d be surprised by how many players were low draft choices or even undrafted.
The Raiders starting cornerbacks may be Shawntae Spencer, cut by the 49ers in March and picked up by the Raiders five days later, and Ron Bartell, released by the St. Louis Rams after missing 15 games last season with a neck injury. Spencer, an eight-year veteran, started all 32 games for the Niners in the 2009-10 seasons, but slid down the depth chart because of injuries last season.
Spencer may not be the only former 49er on the Raiders roster this season. There is an obvious need for a running back to spell the brilliant, but injury-prone Darren McFadden. The 49ers have a glut of them, after drafting LaMichael James and signing former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. The most likely cut is Anthony Dixon, who would be a good fit for the Raiders.
The change in the Raiders is also obvious on the practice field where new coach Dennis Allen is taking a hands-on approach, especially with the defense. Tackling in practice has been especially emphasized. You’d think that professional players would know how to tackle, but anybody watching Raiders games last season knows that’s not a given.
Allen was given a four-year contract by McKenzie, to show that the new approach will be to emulate organizations like the Packers, New England Patriots and perhaps now the 49ers who have consistent success.
I’d be surprised if the Raiders make the playoffs this year, but I expect them to have long term success under McKenzie’s leadership.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.