|GM Reggie McKenzie has had a tough rookie season with the 3-8 Raiders. (US Presswire)|
It's been a rough rookie season for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. First, he confronted salary cap hell in the offseason when he was forced to purge the roster of a long list of players with big contracts. Now he's dealing with the frustration of a being in charge of a team that hasn't won a game since October and is 3-8 with five games remaining.
McKenzie met Friday with reporters to answer questions about his team during a rare interview:
How frustrating has it been for you to see this team not meet your hopes or expectations?
Reggie McKenzie: "I mean, going into this thing from the offseason, I knew what road was in front of me and how we had to attack this thing. And as we all know, it's been well-documented, mostly by you guys, about what we all had in store, including the players and coaches. Now, with that being said, when Mark Davis and I began this quest and talked about the future of the Raiders, and that's my ultimate goal, is to build this thing, into a consistent playoff contender and a Super Bowl winner. And we both agreed that we're going to build this thing the right way. Now, going into this training camp, I liked the prospects of the way it was going. I knew where the talent level was, and I knew we didn't have depth to lose players, not one, because I knew it was going to be a drop off. That's without a doubt. But to be where we are now, at 3-8, is disappointing. I know the fans are not happy, I'm not happy, the coaches, I know the players are not happy. This was a terrible November. Now, you kind of knew, in September, beginning of the season, [that we were] going to struggle a little bit. But the November part of the season has not been good at all. And that cannot continue to happen. And it's our job to fix it, starting with me. Big plays kill us on defense. It's hard to win when you're giving up big plays on defense. So, to answer your question, I was not looking at [us] being 3-8 at this point. No."
What kind of job has Dennis Allen done? We talked before the season and you were really high on him.
McKenzie: "I'm still pleased with Dennis. It's like, I'm a rookie in this thing, Dennis is a rookie in this thing. So I'm sure he has some rookie mistakes, but overall I'm happy with Dennis."
So no matter what happens the rest of the way, he's safe for next year?
McKenzie: "You know what guys? Players, coaches, my scouts, I don't care, the equipment guy, I'm not going to get after ... from a standpoint of who's safe, who's in or out. I don't like to discuss anything during the season. It's my job to evaluate this team, and that's done on a weekly basis, so at the end of this thing I have my evaluation of not only coach Allen but every player and my thoughts of every coach. But that's a season evaluation."
You talked about it being a long road to building a competitive team. In what areas are you further along on that road?
McKenzie: "Well, it was my No. 1 job really to get what I feel is the backbone of the football team, my scouting department. I think I'm further along in that area than anything else."
Have you moved further along in terms of the roster? Do you think you're closer to having a competitive roster than you were when you got here?
McKenzie: "When I got here it was millions and millions of dollars over the cap. I'm trying to figure out how to make these decisions from a cap standpoint. When that plays such a role into your decision-making ... some players you would like to keep if you have the money. But in the beginning of my statement when I talked about here's what you dealt with, Mark (Davis) told me, 'Here's what we got. Here's what we're going to have to deal with for this first year. Here's your draft picks, here's the money.' Totally understand that. Now it's my job to figure out how you're going to manipulate it. Am I further along? Yes. We're under the cap, we trimmed the guys that we had to. But guys, this thing is going forward. We're going to get better from here on out, especially in the player personnel department. That's my quest and we get on that, really, on a weekly basis."
Do you now have cap flexibility to make moves in the offseason?
McKenzie: "Some, yeah. We should be in a good enough situation to do some things. To do a lot of great things? We don't have great room but we've got ... Guys, I mean what happened this offseason, I don't wish that on anybody, maybe the other teams in our division. That was a struggle, especially coming in here as a rookie GM. I remember talking to (Packers GM) Ted Thompson. His rookie year he was able to get Charles Woodson. I would have liked to have done that. I talked to guys all around the league. I didn't realize what the situation, how difficult and what other people thought about it. When you get the job people call and say, 'What are you going to do with that cap? ... But I'm not crying over spilled milk. ..."
How much does it hurt that you don't have an elite pass rusher and how much of a priority will that be?
McKenzie: "Two things. I want to win up front -- and that's on both sides of the ball -- with the big boys, but also I want to somehow affect the quarterback position, and that's with good coverage and corners and a free safety that's going to pick 'em off. Or with somebody hitting them upside the head. Pass rush. A good push up the middle and somebody he's going to be scared of. We're going to try to upgrade at a lot of positions, depth-wise, and get some impact players."
Will you target guys to bring back, maybe before the end of the season, or will you wait until after the season?
McKenzie: "Without getting into which players and all that, yes, we are targeting. ... We have quite a few free agents. We're going to see who we can get done before the league year (ends) or even before the season."
Do you guys view Michael Huff as a cornerback long-term?
McKenzie: "No, he's a safety. I didn't have a lot of corners to begin with. We had two guys at the start of the season that were here last year. Michael Huff just gave us the ability because of his skill level, athleticism; he was our best option to do that with."
Is it important to you to see Terrelle Pryor play before the end of the year? Do you care?
McKenzie: "I care because that's the only way I can evaluate him, is to play him. Now, when he plays, how much he plays, that will be a charge to the coaching staff, but yes. We've got a third of the season left, and this is a good time to try to figure out what works best for him."
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter @CBSRaiders.