ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie heard all the rumors and read all the reports that his coach, Dennis Allen, was on the hot seat as his team staggered to a second consecutive 4-12 finish by again dropping eight of its final nine games.
But while McKenzie may have turned his nose up at the speculation, he did feel the need to reassure Allen he would return for a third season in 2014.
“I took it upon myself to just say, ‘Hey, man, all the stuff that’s out there, I don’t know where that’s coming from, but just coach these guys, let’s get going,'” McKenzie said Thursday in a season-ending meeting with six reporters who cover the team regularly.
“It was not an issue with me. I understand how things kind of go in different directions when it gets toward the end of the season throughout the league when (people are) predicting who’s going to be in, who’s going to be out. I understood all that. But I wasn’t going to play into that.
“I wasn’t going to … put out a fire that wasn’t there.”
Allen is 8-24 in two years, the worst such mark by any Raiders coach since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 (Norv Turner was a combined 9-23 in 2004 and ’05). And Allen’s road record is 2-14.
The Raiders’ talent level, after two years of severe salary cap limitations, played a part, McKenzie said.
“Definitely we lack some talent in some areas, no question,” he said. “We’re fully aware of some of the places we’re lacking offensively and defensively. We’re trying to upgrade at quarterback, at receiver, linemen on both sides. The whole defense.”
McKenzie also broached several other topics in the 45-minute session, his first public comments since November. Among them: how last year’s 4-12 team was different from the previous season’s; which of his own free agents he would like to retain; how the upcoming $60-plus million in cap space and full allotment of draft picks brings a dual sense of urgency and excitement; and his evaluations of the team’s quarterbacks.
Perhaps most illuminating was McKenzie saying he did not have to spend the offseason going through a list to see which of his own players he’d have to cut to get under the salary cap.
And with 18 pending unrestricted free agents, McKenzie, when asked, said he hoped to retain the likes of left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston, free safety Charles Woodson and running back Rashad Jennings. McKenzie said he thought oft-injured running back Darren McFadden would test the free-agent market.
McKenzie also said he thought the Raiders needed a veteran presence at quarterback. Oakland recently signed Trent Edwards to a reserve/future contract, following a year with Terrelle Pryor and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin under center after McKenzie’s pick, Matt Flynn, washed out and fourth-round draft choice Tyler Wilson was cut and later picked up off Oakland’s practice squad by the Tennessee Titans.
“I just want a quarterback that can be consistent and can rally that team to move up and down the field and make plays,” McKenzie said. “I don’t care if it’s making a few plays with his feet, but being able to throw the ball at the right spot, the timing so the receivers can effectively matriculate down the field and score points.
“What you’ll see in the AFC championship versus what you’ll see in the NFC championship, you’re talking about two totally different kinds of styles. So whichever style that fits and I think that can be our guy for the future, that’s what I’ll be looking for.”
- Covered Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years
- Member of Pro Football Writers Association
- Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated