ALAMEDA, Calif. — Calling it “the formal unification of something that has been going on for a really long time,” Mike Mayock said the timing was finally right, as the longtime NFL Network draft analyst was introduced as the Oakland Raiders‘ general manager on Monday.
Mayock also interviewed “10 or 12 years ago” with late Raiders owner Al Davis.
“I flew out here clandestinely to meet Mr. Al Davis and he took me into this building, and he hid me for eight hours and he grilled me on everything, as you know, and I came out of the building that day with my head spinning,” Mayock said. “Nobody ever knew for a couple of years that he and I had talked about a potential job with the Oakland Raiders that long ago. So, I think the harmonic convergence of what’s happened today is kind of cool.
“I’m jacked. I’m juiced. I’m ready to go and there’s nobody I’d rather go to war with than [coach] Jon Gruden and [owner] Mark Davis.”
The Raiders have an impressive war chest going forward, with three first-round draft picks in April (their own at No. 4 overall as well as those belonging to the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears) and an estimated $80 million in salary cap space, to continue a roster rebuild. Even if the Raiders — who move to Las Vegas in 2020 — still do not have a home for 2019.
Mayock replaces Reggie McKenzie, who was fired after almost seven years on Dec. 10. Mayock has plenty of college scouting experience, but he acknowledged he will need help in the day-to-day operations. Mayock had drawn interest from teams with general manager openings in recent years, including Washington before the 2017 season.
“I’ve been in all 32 buildings for the last 15 years,” he said. “I know what it looks like, I know what it smells like — I just need a little help with the mechanics.”
Enter Gruden, who praised Mayock for his “people skills” and energy.
“If it’s a good trade, I’ll make the calls; if it’s a bad trade, it will be Mayock. That’s the way it’s going to be around here,” Gruden said to laughter.
Gruden said he did not anticipate any changes on the scouting side of things, crediting Raiders director of college scouting Shaun Herock for his work.
“But I do think Mike is going to talk to a lot of people, and if he finds somebody out there that can come in and have the same vision that we have, we’re going to jump on the table to get that guy in here,” Gruden said. “We’re going to lead the league in effort. I will not make any other promises than that.
“Mayock and I will be committed to working together. We’re going to be passionate about what we do, we’re going to be loyal to one another and we’re going to lead the league in effort. And if we don’t, I want to meet the two that beats us in that.”
Davis said he has talked with Mayock on the sidelines before games.
“Always telling him how much I respect his outlook and measured approach to talent evaluation,” Davis said. “And I always felt that I would love to have him as part of the Raider organization. I didn’t know in what role … when the opportunity came to talk with Mike this time around, he was one of the first people we wanted to talk to, and he hit it out of the park.”
Davis said the Raiders had “five or six intensive interviews” for the position but would not name names, for competitive reasons.
In Mayock’s interview, Davis did not quiz Mayock, as his father did a decade ago, in a big conference room, having him draw up formations and fronts on the grease board.
“And when I was doing that, I realized he was already on the next topic,” Mayock said of the elder Davis, such as listing the top five quarterbacks in that year’s draft. Then Davis changed the topic again.
“And for six to eight hours, he hopped from topic to topic and I realized my answers needed to be quick, needed to be on point, because he’s moving on. That’s how he challenged people … get you off kilter a little bit to see how you react.”
Mayock sees some of that in Gruden, with how he challenges people.
The challenge for Mayock now, though, is getting caught up on the Raiders’ roster, which saw 38 players on the team’s final 53-man roster of 2018 not play a single snap for Oakland in 2017, and just seven of McKenzie’s 50 draft picks made before Gruden’s return on that 53-man roster.
The Raiders finished 4-12, two years after going 12-4, though they did win three of their last seven games.
“It’s critical that we hit the ground running, and the good news for me is I’m already ahead on the college side,” said Mayock, who has been scouting college players since July. “Job No. 1 for me is to get on the same page with the coaching staff about the current Raider roster.”
Asked if Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension in the summer of 2017, was the Raiders’ longtime answer at quarterback, Mayock did not hesitate.
“That’s really part of my study right now,” Mayock said. “Bottom line, it’s easy to pick names right now, but I’m not going to make a comment on anybody on the current roster until I’ve done a complete deep dive and I’ve had a chance to meet with all the coaches.”