Saturday, March 17, 2018

Boom or bust: Reggie McKenzie's draft record with the Raiders

Reggie McKenzie, right, became Raiders general manager in 2012. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.
When Mark Davis took over the Oakland Raiders after the death of his father, his first major act was to hire former Raiders linebacker Reggie McKenzie away from the Green Bay Packers' front office to be the Raiders' first-ever general manager.

Since taking over in January 2012, McKenzie - who had been the Packers' director of football operations, made his name in Wisconsin in the player personnel department, spending more than a decade as director of player personnel before his promotion in 2008.

With the 2018 NFL Draft approaching, McKenzie has overseen six drafts during his tenure in Silver & Black. Now, with the hire of Jon Gruden as head coach - the fourth head coach since McKenzie took over as GM and fired head coach Hue Jackson - there is speculation about how power will be shared in the front office. But McKenzie's reputation is as a scout, while Gruden's is, of course, as an offensive guru.

But how has McKenzie really fared in Oakland's 2012-17 drafts? On the upside, his 2014 Draft was one of the best in Raiders' history, without a doubt. And, to be fair, his first draft was hamstrung by Jackson's maneuvering during the 2011 season in the wake of Al Davis' death as he tried to get the Raiders to the playoffs and secure his own future (failing on both counts).

Monday, February 26, 2018

Golden boys: Raiders who took part in the Olympic Games

Former Olympian Tommie Smith lights the Al Davis torch. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.
When Sam McGuffie headed to the recent 2018 Winter Olympics as a bobsledder, he joined a small but elite group of Raiders alumni.

McGuffie, who had put up strong numbers at two positions for two colleges, was only an Oakland Raider briefly, spending training camp with the team in 2013 as a wide receiver after signing as an undrafted free agent.

But, five years later, when he headed to PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018 as part of Team USA, he added his name to the list of two-sport athletes who could claim to be both Olympians and NFLers.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Chucky's return: Revisiting the infamous Jon Gruden trade

Mark Davis and Jon Gruden in 2012. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.
With the new year 2018 upon the Raider Nation and the return of prodigal head coach Jon Gruden apparently on the verge of becoming a reality, it seems like the perfect time to kick-start the Raiders Research Project yet again, with a new version of the Gruden trade article.

When the Raiders Research Project was in its previous iteration several years ago, its most popular article was a running tally of the Raiders' benefits from the infamous trade of Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason of 2001-02.

In the wake of the infamous "Tuck Rule" playoff defeat, the Raiders allowed Gruden, the team's head coach from 1998 through 2001, to sign with the Buccaneers, receiving four top draft picks and a reported $8 million in cash as compensation. Ironically, the Raiders — under new coach Bill Callahan, Gruden's offensive coordinator — went on to face Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVIII after the 2002 season, where Gruden's team took advantage of his knowledge of the Oakland systems to rout the Raiders, 48-21.

Even as that game launched Oakland into a downward spiral that would last more than a dozen years, the Raiders continued to reap benefits of the coaching "trade" for years to come. Were those benefits worth the cost, in one of football's brightest coaching minds?

With Gruden reportedly returning to lead the Raiders in this winter of 2017-18, more than 15 years after the trade that exiled him from Oakland, the RRP is pleased to revive this project and show just what the Raiders got in exchange, in addition to more than a decade of asking "what might have been."

Be warned: The Gruden trade shaped the Raiders' future far beyond four draft picks over the next three years. It's a long read!

(Note that, in researching this article, I discovered that I made an error involving one draft pick in the original piece. That has been corrected.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Top of the heap: The No. 1 overall picks who have played for the Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have chosen No. 1 in the NFL Draft twice. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.

For much of the team's history, the Raiders have been strangers to the top of the annual NFL Draft. Since the draft is conducted in reverse order of the previous season's finish, from about 1963 to 2002, the Raiders were normally playoff contenders unlikely to land one of the top picks.

On the other hand, in the team's early, pre-Al Davis years from 1960 to 1962, and the long drought between Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003 and the 2016 playoff season, double-digit losses and high draft picks were the norm.

The end result is that the Raiders have made the first overall pick in the draft only twice in team history, and the second selection only twice.

On the other hand, Al Davis was always known for taking a chance on a talented player or three, and as a result, the team has employed numerous No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks made by other teams and acquired through various means.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Supplemental Draft: A very short history of the Raiders' participation

The Raiders have not been regular users of the Supplemental Draft. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.

The NFL's annual Supplemental Draft is normally a summer footnote for those who follow (often marginal) college football prospects.

The draft, held after the regular NFL Draft in April, is designed as an entry into the league for players who have lost their eligibility to play NCAA football in the intervening time, often due to disciplinary issues.

A team can "bid" on a player in each round of the draft, forfeiting the equivalent pick in the following NFL Draft. So, for instance, if a team were to bid for a player in the fourth round, and win him, it would give up its fourth-round pick the next April. In many years, none of the eligible players is chosen, making them college free agents eligible to be signed by any team.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Heisman Trophy-winning Raiders: College football greats in Silver & Black

Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy in 1970. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.
The Raiders have always seemed to have a fascination with Heisman Trophy winners. This is a team, after all, that has never hesitated to take a chance on a player with potential, from failed first-round draft picks to raw athletes to former starters from division rivals.

And while some Heisman winners have become Raiders legends, like quarterback Jim Plunkett or wide receiver/kick returner Tim Brown, others have failed to make a mark in a short, unmemorable stint with the team.

Nevertheless, from tight end Billy Cannon in the AFL days to quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart in 2012, the Raiders have employed their fair share of these college football greats.

Monday, January 23, 2017

QBs drafted by the Raiders: Where does Derek Carr stand?

Derek Carr was the Raiders' second-round pick in 2014. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.

Much of the Raiders' resurgence in 2016 was attributed to star quarterback Derek Carr, who was an MVP candidate before a late-season injury cut his year short and short-circuited the team's playoff hopes.

Much has also been made of the fact that Carr was a second-round draft choice in 2014, the fourth quarterback taken that year. And although Blake Bortles, chosen 3rd overall, and Teddy Bridgewater, chosen 32nd overall, have had their moments, neither has reached the heights of Carr, chosen 36th overall. And Johnny Manziel, chosen at No. 22, has been an unmitigated bust.

Yet, little has been made of the fact that the Raiders, quite frankly, have been terrible at drafting quarterbacks. Their best passers, in fact, have been retreads such as Rich Gannon and Jim Plunkett, both signed as street free agents after earlier struggles.

And while new Hall of Famer Ken Stabler was, like Carr, a homegrown second-round draft pick, he wasn't even the first quarterback the Raiders chose in his draft year.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jack Del Rio: Most qualified Raiders head coach ever?

Jack Del Rio, head coach of the Raiders. Photo by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.

When Mark Davis took over as the principal owner of the Oakland Raiders after his father's death in 2011, and subsequently hired Reggie McKenzie as the team's general manager in the 2011-12 offseason, a crack began to appear in the team's legendary veil of secrecy.

Team media guides, for instance, became obviously thicker — though remaining skinnier than many NFL peers'.

But one odd omission jumps out: The Raiders have not listed their all-time head coaches in any logical place since the 2011 media guide (the last year it was printed under Al Davis' ownership), and not in any fashion at all since 2012.