Click photo to enlarge
ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 30: New Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen (L) greets Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie (C) and team owner Mark Davis during a press conference on January 30, 2012 in Alameda, California. Dennis Allen was introduced as the new coach of the Oakland Raiders, replacing Hue Jackson who was fired after one season. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

With the blessing of Raiders owner Mark Davis, new general manager Reggie McKenzie is going through the football operation with flashlights and microscopes, opening all the doors and windows, pulling up the carpet and inspecting the foundation.

It took maybe seven seconds for McKenzie to realize this long-dysfunctional franchise needs more than a few cosmetic touches, that a nip here and tuck there would not be enough to reprogram mindsets and shed decades of internal indolence.

Even as the new coach, Dennis Allen, was saying he didn't think "radical changes are what need to be made," the G.M. was planning precisely that.

Asked at the news conference introducing Allen if he already had begun scouting his current roster, McKenzie replied, yes, he had. For emphasis, he added a second "yes."

Roughly a week later, he released starting cornerback Stanford Routt.

That was radical. It was perceptive. And it was absolutely proper.

It served to announce that the Raiders are in the midst of an overhaul that almost certainly will be for the better. If he wanted to send a message to the roster -- and perhaps throughout the Harbor Bay headquarters -- the G.M. could not have made a more astute decision than to fire a wildly overpaid employee who consistently rejected the notion of accountability.


Advertisement

Moreover, McKenzie unceremoniously dismissed a player who had been a personal pet of previous owner/legend Al Davis, who died in October.

Routt, after all, embodied so much of what was wrong with the Raiders in recent years. He was a terrific athlete, with strong measurables, but an average football player. That Stan was aware of his shortcomings was apparent with the desperate clutching and grabbing that made him the most-penalized player on the league's most-penalized team.

More disturbing, though, Routt was a fervent self-promoter, given to reciting self-serving personal statistics while generally ignoring those exposing his liabilities.

How could these factors not rub McKenzie -- a former player, a former Raider -- the wrong way?

Under the enabling presence of Al Davis, the longtime owner/G.M. who died last October, Routt owned and exploited his license to be disengaged.

It was known throughout the league that Al Davis was doggedly subjective regarding the players on his roster. Two might perform similarly, yet one would be rewarded while the other would not. Rhyme and reason were not always part of the equation.

Do we all remember how the former owner went out of his way to discredit the work of Rich Gannon, the team's last MVP, while defending the maddening mountain of misjudgement that was JaMarcus Russell?

Though McKenzie might be new at this particular gig, he's familiar with the requirements of building a roster, and he spent enough time in Green Bay to recognize the characteristics needed to form a quality team.

Dumping Routt got the attention of every player on the roster. They're all eyes and ears, from established stars to those barely clinging to their NFL status.

Some love the decision, while others are chewing on their fingernails.

Punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are safe. So, too, is defensive lineman Richard Seymour, a desired presence and reportedly already on board for 2012. Youngsters Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski almost certainly will be the anchors of the altered offensive line to be assembled.

McKenzie and Allen both say they expect quarterback Carson Palmer to return and that troubled linebacker Rolando McClain, a heralded 2010 draft pick who failed to match his hype, is talented enough to warrant further inspection.

The list of those in danger of being released -- especially if they decline to accept reduced salaries -- is long and includes veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, safety Michael Huff and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, another Al Davis favorite whose salary dwarfs his performance.

By shedding Routt, a veteran who fancied himself Pro Bowl-caliber, the G.M. sent a clear and distinct message: Your old scholarship is worthless.

That's not only radical change but also indicative of an entirely different approach to determining who is worthy of wearing the uniform.

Understand, though, McKenzie's moves won't stop with the roster. He'll get around to the front office, the personnel operatives and scouts. They're safe for now, because the G.M. knows most of them and realizes they spent last fall evaluating collegians.

Most will accompany McKenzie to the NFL Combine next week in Indianapolis, where they get one more opportunity to prove they can pass his flashlight and microscope test.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.