OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — The Oakland Raiders fired general manager Reggie McKenzie on Monday, less than two years after he was named the NFL’s executive of the year.
McKenzie became general manager in 2012 with the team in disarray, but he engineered a turnaround. By 2016, the club was 12-4 and in the playoffs, but their hopes were derailed when quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg late in the season.
Since that time, the team has tumbled down the standing, replacing head coach Jack Del Rio with Jon Gruden and trading away two of his star players.
McKenzie drafted Khalil Mack fourth overall and watched him develop into the 2016 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, got quarterback Derek Carr in the second round to end the more than decade-long revolving door at the position, and added several other key players, including wide receiver Amari Cooper, guard Gabe Jackson and defensive tackle Justin Ellis through the draft.
But Mack, one of the front runners for Defensive Player of the Year winner, was sent to the Chicago Bears for a pair of first-round picks in a preseason trade. Then Cooper, who has revitalized the Cowboys playoff hopes, was sent to Dallas for a first-round pick in a trade-deadline deal.
Despite all that, McKenzie downplayed any rift in the relationship that dated back to the 1990s when both worked together in Green Bay.
“Gruden and I, we work together very well,” McKenzie said after the Cooper trade. “Let’s get no mistakes about him pushing me out. That’s not happening. Me not being able to work with Gruden? That’s furthest from the truth. OK?”
The team issued a one-line statement thanking McKenzie.
“We are grateful for everything Reggie has done for this organization as a player, executive and member of the Raider family,” the team said.
Gruden, who signed s 10-year, $100 million contract, was rumored to be behind the Mack and Cooper trades as he charts rebuilding the club in preparation for the Raiders move to Las Vegas.
The Raiders enjoyed a rare victory Sunday, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion 24-21 to run their season mark to 3-10.
Oakland is tied with San Francisco and Arizona for the worst record in the league. With a likely top 10 pick of their own and two other first-rounders this year, along with two first-round picks next year, Gruden likely wanted his own people in place in the personnel departments to make those moves.