ALAMEDA — Reggie McKenzie made clear on his first day as Raiders general manager that there’s a new regime in Oakland.
Soon after officially signing his contract to be the first general manager since longtime owner Al Davis’ death, McKenzie fired coach Hue Jackson in a bold first move as he looks to give the organization a fresh start.
“There comes a time when change is necessary,” McKenzie said Tuesday. “For the Raiders the time is now. The Raiders organization, with respect and deference for all its tradition and history, is about to embark on a new era.”
The era will begin without Jackson, who was fired after going 8-8 in his first season as head coach. McKenzie wanted to bring in his “own guy” to rebuild the organization.
Finding that coach will be the first major task for McKenzie, who also must bulk up the personnel department and evaluate the roster in what promises to be a busy offseason.
Owner Mark Davis said McKenzie will decide on the new coach and the personnel decisions, with the coach ultimately reporting to the general manager.
That’s a major change from how the organization was run before Davis’ father, Al, died of heart failure Oct. 8. Al Davis made all the major decisions when he was in charge of the team, with many of those now falling to McKenzie as Mark Davis focuses on finding a new stadium and other off-field issues.
“Change happened on October 8th,” Davis said. “”The one thing I know is what I don’t know. The one thing I did know was I needed to bring the right people in here. My feeling always has been that if my father wasn’t here we needed someone to run that football side of the building. I needed to find the right person. I truly believe that Reggie McKenzie is the right man for this job.”
McKenzie had spent the past 18 years in the front office of the Green Bay Packers, last serving as director of football operations. He was well-respected for his role in helping to build a Super Bowl championship team with the Packers and also had ties to the Raiders, having played linebacker for four years with the team in the 1980s.
Many of his former teammates were on hand at the news conference introducing him.
“Guys, this is where I came from. I’m back home now. I’m back home,” he said. “As soon as Mark told me ‘We want you for the job’ I couldn’t, you know, I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Davis said he had targeted McKenzie as his desired general manager in the weeks after his father’s death and noted it was awkward when he ran into him at the Raiders’ game in Green Bay last month. About an hour after Oakland’s season ended, Davis had the organization formally request permission from the Packers to interview McKenzie.
They sat down for a six-hour interview last Wednesday, with former Raiders coach John Madden assisting Davis. They quickly finalized the deal and McKenzie signed it Tuesday morning.
He then immediately fired Jackson, marking a rapid fall for the man who was in charge of personnel decisions and coaching after Davis’ death.
Jackson made the trade for quarterback Carson Palmer after starter Jason Campbell broke his collarbone, costing the Raiders a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional 2013 second-rounder.
While Palmer showed signs of giving the Raiders a big-time quarterback, he was unable to get Oakland to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, raising questions about how effective that trade was.
After starting the season 7-4, the Raiders lost four of their final five games to mark their ninth straight season without a winn-ing record or a playoff berth. A late-game collapse at home against Detroit on Dec. 18 and a 38-26 loss to San Diego at home in the season finale did in the Raiders and ultimately Jackson.
Jackson joined the Raiders as offensive coordinator in 2010 under head coach Tom Cable and engineered a dramatic improvement as Oakland more than doubled its point total and improved to 8-8. That helped him get the job when Davis decided not to retain Cable.
The offense wasn’t quite as effective with Jackson as head coach, with injuries to star running back Darren McFadden, receiver Jacoby Ford and Campbell played a role in the decline.
But the biggest problems this past season were an inability to curb the team’s propensity for penalties and on the defensive side of the ball. The team committed 163 penalties for 1,358 yards, setting records in both categories, as Jackson was unable to instill the discipline he promised.
The Raiders also had franchise worsts in touchdown passes allowed (31), yards per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards (6,201), while giving up the third-most points (433) in team history.
Oakland joined this season’s Tampa Bay team as two of the four teams to allow at least 30 TD passes and 5.0 yards per carry in a season, a distinction achieved previously by only the 1950 Baltimore Colts and 1952 Dallas Texans. The Raiders also became the sixth team since the 1970 merger to allow at least 2,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing in a season.
The new coach will be Oakland’s seventh in the past 10 seasons, following Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Cable and Jackson.