Reggie McKenzie walked onto the auditorium stage, slid his burly frame into a black leather chair and, with Raiders owner Mark Davis at his side, calmly and rationally dismissed the ways of Raiders past.

The first immediate change was at head coach. Hue Jackson, the man who had risen to power since the death of Al Davis and had coached the team to a rousing 7-4 start, was fired Tuesday at a news conference to introduce McKenzie as the team's general manager.

McKenzie said he wants to hire his own coach -- the betting favorite is a Green Bay assistant named Winston Moss -- and it might be a simple as that. With Jackson losing four of his last five games, and the Raiders finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the ninth straight year, it didn't need to be any more complicated.

So that part of Raiders tradition remains: firing coaches.

Everything else is going to be different.

Having operated for four decades under the uniquely autocratic, and idiosyncratic, leadership of Al Davis, who was owner, general manager and chief personnel evaluator, the Raiders are getting an overdue overhaul.

"I'll let Reggie put his stamp on the organization," Mark Davis said, effectively passing the Raiders football baton from the clutches of the Davis family into the hands of McKenzie, the team's first full-time general manager since the 1960s.

Drafted as a linebacker by the Raiders in 1985, McKenzie drifted into scouting upon retirement from the NFL. Though he began at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, he later established impressive credentials over 18 years in the front office of the Green Bay Packers.


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McKenzie, who most recently was Green Bay's director of football operations, vowed Tuesday to "identify what works and what needs to be done differently" in Oakland.

"There comes a time when change is necessary," he said.

There no longer will be favorites, clearly. Jackson was hired by Al Davis, promoted by Al Davis, and favored by Al Davis. Asked if at any time since his father's death he has tried to make decisions as he imagined his father would, Mark quickly said he has not. Nor does he plan to.

"It's just on me now," Davis said.

Welcome to Mark and Reggie's New Raiders, who are nothing like Al's Raiders. There is, for example, a chain of command, with McKenzie reporting directly to Davis and the coach to be hired by McKenzie reporting directly to the new general manager. The next head coach will be allowed to form his own staff, without interference from above -- something that was a given under Al Davis.

"I have to push on and make this team as great as it possibly can be," Mark Davis said of the role he inherited from his father. "That's what I have to do for him. That's his legacy."

Though Mark Davis will be consulted on major football decisions, McKenzie is the ultimate authority.

"This is where I came from," said McKenzie, who spent four seasons with the Raiders as a linebacker. "I'm back home. I'm back home now."

This Raiders home, however, is not the home with which he once was so familiar.

These Raiders play in Oakland, whereas McKenzie played in Los Angeles.

More to the point, these Raiders haven't had a winning season since 2002. Davis spent every year since '02 flailing and thrashing about, desperately seeking to resurrect the franchise that once ranked as one of the most successful in sports.

This team's "house" will undergo deep renovations, from the front office and scouting departments to the coaching staff and down through the roster. McKenzie will serve as the architect.

It's a mammoth project, considering all the years under the unilateral leadership of Davis, who since the 1970s made every major decision.

McKenzie, 48, will tour the building and examine the roster. He'll meet with members of the organization, picking brains and determining who is deemed worthy of continued employment and who in the current operation doesn't fit into his vision of the New Raiders.

He came to the job with a strong recommendation from Ron Wolf, a former Raiders personnel executive who later served as general manager in Green Bay and hired McKenzie as a scout in 1994. Mark Davis, joined by former Raiders coach John Madden, conducted a lengthy interview with McKenzie and never seriously considered anyone else for the job.

Presume that the Raiders, with the sparsest front office in the league, will become a more conventional NFL franchise, with several layers of management. Roles will be more defined, McKenzie implied, and accountability will be a part of the equation.

"In an era of change," McKenzie said, "one thing will remain constant: a commitment to excellence."

Well, of course, that particular slogan survives. McKenzie believes in it.

It's a noble goal, applicable to any endeavor, and one of the few things worthy of making the jump from this franchise's analog past to its digital future.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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