Since Reggie McKenzie has taken over as general manager of the Oakland Raiders there have been no shortage of tough decisions to be made. Structurally the organisation for the previous 50 years had been fundamentally built around one man, the great Al Davis and roster wise the Raiders were carrying a LOT of players that had been handed long term contracts that were not playing up to them, which is a major problem when you are over the salary cap by an ungodly amount.
The tough decisions would have to start being made immediately if the Raiders were even going to be able to field a team in 2012. Reggie started by cutting big names and fan favorites like Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley among others. Facing similar issues in the off season of 2013 Reggie was forced to make some even tougher calls moving on from Michael Huff, Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour to go along with Carson Palmer who continued his trend of quitting on teams who gave him an opportunity.
McKenzie has also shown that he is willing to make tough decisions in areas outside of the playing group. He has moved on from multiple long serving employees in his rebuilding of the scouting and overall football department to bring the franchise more in to line with the rest of the NFL.
McKenzie has definitely shown that he is not scared to get rid of under performing big name players and long term staff in his tenure as Raiders however, for the most part, McKenzie has only made the tough calls on players from the previous regime.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wimbley, Michael Huff etc were all brought in by Davis and had no ties to McKenzie beyond the short time they were together in Oakland. Yesterday however, McKenzie showed that making the hard decision is not limited to players of the old regime as he cut what is probably the signature move of his time in Oakland, Matt Flynn.
Flynn and McKenzie spent a number of years together in Green Bay and McKenzie was part of the team in Green Bay that drafted Flynn. So it was no surprise people had made the connection about Flynn potentially coming to join McKenzie in Oakland even before the 2013 off season. Then, when Palmer quit on the Raiders and with Flynn still backing up Wilson in Seattle, the rumors started up again and this time proved fruitful.
With the salary the Flynn was brought in on and the salary cap issues that had been killing the Raiders since McKenzie began, there was always going to be a lot of scrutiny on both Flynn and McKenzie. McKenzie somewhat hedged his bets by renegotiating Matt’s contract ensuring it included offset language and adding more guaranteed money in 2012 to make it cheaper to cut him in 2014. But being easily his biggest ‘headline’ move this was going to be a move that McKenzie was judged by and as coach Allen said ‘It didn’t work out’
It didn’t work out from reasonably early stage in camp as he was outplayed and outperformed by the raw Terrelle Pryor (deja vu for Flynn) but it was there that Reggie and Coach Allen started showing their strength of character was the difference in which a player that they had ‘hand picked’ was handled when being outperformed.
Where in the past when Raiders brought in players in the same manner as Flynn they would be forced on the field regardless of performance while more deserving players were left to watch. Reggie and Allen rose above their pride admitted they had made a miscue on Flynn and went with Pryor as the starting QB for 2013.
After getting a chance to start and prove everybody wrong against Washington and stinking up the joint he was demoted to third string. The saga was finally brought to a complete conclusion and Flynn was told to clean out his locker.
I still feel like the initial trade for Flynn was a solid move considering the only other QB on the roster was young and very raw and no real better free agent QB’s on offer (would you have preferred Kolb?). The exponential improvement of Pryor was very difficult to predict let alone put all your eggs in that basket as a coach and GM. But it is certainly clear that no matter what your name is and who brought you to Oakland, if you don’t perform and have a bad attitude you are gone. By cutting Flynn now also the Raiders do not have to give up the second conditional draft pick to Seattle and are able to absorb the cap hit this season – another solid move by the GM.
Many general managers and coaches would have been too proud to make the call on Flynn. Firstly starting him to prove they were right in the first place to bring him in and secondly would have stuck with him too long as he is ‘their guy’. The fact the McKenzie allowed Dennis Allen to make the move to Pryor and then get to the point where Flynn was cut proves that McKenzie is willing to make the decisions that are best for our football team regardless of whether his name is attached to it as well. Doing what is best for the Raiders is more important than the General manager and coaches reputation.
Davis guys, McKenzie guys, Allen guys it doesn’t matter there are no longer scholarships on offer at the Raiders.
You can follow Matthew Brown on Twitter: @MattyFightsEvil and can follow Cover32 Raiders on Twitter: @Cover32_Oak