That first meeting between Reggie McKenzie and Hue Jackson ought to be a triumph of awkwardosity. Or awkwarditude. Or awkwardicity. I mean, merely awkward isnt like to cover it.AFTER ALL THE YEARS I GAVE TO THIS FRANCHISE! AFTER THE THINGS IVE DONE! IVE GIVEN YOU CARSON PALMER! IVE GIVEN YOU THE IM PISSED AT MY TEAM AD CAMPAIGN! AL, AL, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?Hi, Hue, Im Reggie McKenzie. Nice to meet you.
Okay, it wont be like that, at least not if Jackson wants to keep the job he was hired to do. Hell be forthright but respectful, and hell promise to be the best damned coach McKenzie has ever had, and the continued glory of the Raiders, and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah.Its called making a good impression, and Jackson isnt so nuts as to forget how to do so.But he must, in the back of his mind, be in full fume about the end of his 89-day tenure as the football department of the Oakland Raiders. Those six heady wins, those six annoying losses, those late-night chats with Mike Brown whispering sweet give-me-Carson-Palmers into his ear . . . those were magic times.But now they are done, and the Raiders have become a traditional franchise for the first time since Wayne Valley first met Al Davis back in 1962. The franchise made a turn toward weird that day, and though their glory days were truly so, theyve been a long time off, and Reggie McKenzie has been charged with bringing them back, only in a more traditional and less capricious fashion.GUTIERREZ: Mark Davis acts decisively in landing McKenzie
This will not be a salute to the weird old days, though. The Raiders eccentricities had well run their course long before Jackson had replaced Tom Cable, and frankly, they were pretty much out of general bizarre theatre ideas the day Al Davis put on the overhead projector for the hit on Lane Kiffin.McKenzie is therefore the logical next step for a team that has always snuggled up to its essential strangeness. He wont understand the Raiders long-held methods, and unless he has been brought in to be a figurehead (which we doubt), a lot of that strangeness will end.Hell leave the uniforms as they are maybe update the eye patch with some gold trim in a Pirates Of The Caribbean motif but his M.O. is not that of someone who wants to put his stamp on a franchise. He wants to win more games than the Raiders have in the last, oh 17 years, which is when they returned to Oaktown and proceeded to polish off exactly 41.5 percent of their opponents.Thats somewhere between six and seven wins a year, and other than that piefight in Seattle a year ago, thats never been good enough to make the playoffs.But hell do it as the guy who runs a more staid, top-down, traditionally Midwestern read, Green Bay Packers-ish operation. Jackson will still be in the room for the big football decisions, but McKenzie will be making the big stripmine-the-draft-for-a-quarterback-you-used-to-know deal. Hell be the one making sure that Jackson doesnt say pissed at my team so often that he is sent to a urologist as a precaution.And if Jackson has a fundamental problem with that arrangement, well, the overhead projector can be turned into a power point presentation soon enough.It is clear that this is something Mark Davis wants. Or at least has come to see as being better than what he had. His first real decision as the essential owner of the franchise is a surprisingly sensible, even button-downed one, one he could not have made five years ago.That doesnt mean that there still isnt weirdness in the building. There will always be some of that, at least during the transitional phase while the tear of the sheet rock and rebuild off the studs to change the ambiance and the things between the walls. You know, its kind of like buying a house that used to be owned by a chain-smoking cat owner. You dont change the lingering aromas without a full-on reclamation.But McKenzie wasnt brought here to dust off pictures and repeat the old slogans. Hes come in to bring in some of his own, and if due diligence and facing our future squarely and as Ron Wolf has helped show me is a little too conservative for you, well, you had 48 years the old way, which is way more than anyone has any right to expect.In short, be thankful for what you had, and spare a thought for Hue Jackson today. He may be pissed at his team, but its for a very different reason than it was Sunday. Which, interestingly, will have been the last time you will ever have heard him say it in public.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com