The transcript of an interview Thursday Reggie McKenzie on how things are progressing with the Raiders after his first offseason, training camp and regular-season game:
Q: You made no move toward available wide receivers such as Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, is that a philosophical thing, wanting to go with younger players?
McKenzie: No, it's not just age per se. If the right player could add to the group ... we just didn't feel that those three were the right ones. Clear and simple. If I felt like they could have added something to what we were doing, I would have strongly considered it.
Q: You came from Green Bay, and Packers never made signings like that ...
McKenzie: All that is well and good. It starts with a foundation and you have to have the guys around long enough to develop and see that development. And we do have a couple of guys ... we were just hit with injuries at that position so early, especially with your No. 1 going down. Then, a guy like Jacoby who we had plans for. Going into it, you felt good but you miss one guy and that can trickle down quickly. If we add guys, I want to make sure and add a guy that's going to help this team. I just didn't think those three guys were the guys.
Q: Is that part of that decision weighing short term versus long term benefits?
McKenzie: Yeah, to get a veteran I like to get one that if he shows himself well, I would like to add another year. Because that group, we don't have a lot of veteran play there. You got DHB as the most seasoned guy. Hagan will help. He's never been the go-to guy, like TO or Chad with all the catches that they have. Derek doesn't have that resume but he's been in the league. That does help solidify the group.
Q: You though at camp that you were a little ahead of where you expected to be. Still true?
McKenzie: Well, when you start playing games, sometimes all it takes is one play to kind of ..."Oh, here we go ... let's get this thing fixed." And that happened with special teams. Not too many long snappers go out ... that's something you don't wish on anyone, for Shane to go through what he had to go through. That was tough. But as far as being ahead, our defense, watching our defense this summer, I felt pretty good and I stated some of that earlier ... that's the same, I didn't waver there. As far as the offense getting the timing with the quarterback and the receivers, you gotta a guy that's been there for a week and a rookie getting a lot of play. Then you had DHB with the other rookie that was hurt — those were our four receivers. That will set you back a little bit. So, with that being said, we're going to have to pick it up in that area. The passing game with everything jelling and clicking, we'll get that going.
Q: Could you and should you have had another long snapper prepared? Or is that just an unforeseen circumstance ...
McKenzie: Well, it's unforeseen. You try a couple of guys that you have in practice and of course the best one was Travis. It was just unfortunate that it didn't work out as good as you would have hoped. You knew he wasn't going to be the type of snapper that does it for a living but that he could get it back there and do it OK. Games are different. I don't think any team has ever kept two-snapper only guys. Hopefully that's a once in a lifetime deal.
Q: Are you confident in the guys behind McFadden that they can take some of the load off his shoulders?
McKenzie: Yeah. Yeah. Especially when you throw as many passes as we did — that's the thing that those two guys can do, they can catch the ball. Hopefully Denarius can help open it up a little bit. But when you talk about Darren getting a lot of touches, that's the flow of the game. It wasn't like he was getting worn down, eight plays in a row. It wasn't by design to throw 15, 13 balls his way. But the quarterback is not going to hesitate to throw it to him. If he doesn't see something he likes, he is going to try and find him. And I am not going to tell him not to put it in his hands. But yeah, Darren will be OK. We have enough confidence in the other two to let them touch the ball. Taiwan got those ribs a little bit, and he was trying to regroup from that.
Q: Rolando McClain looked pretty good. One independent service said he graded out his best game as a Raider. The way that you guys have handled his issues, do you feel vindicated at all?
McKenzie: I really haven't felt any vindication. Honestly, I just look at Rolando since I have been here. And from the offseason workouts to training camp and all of that stuff, he has been solid. He understands what coach Tarver and Dennis and coach Holland are trying to get him to do, and he's taken it and is trying to run with it. ... He did have some production (Monday). I don't know how he graded out, if he lined up right but you did see him flash around there. So, hopefully, all the players, you wan them to continue to get better. And I think they will.
Q: Most teams lose a starting cornerback Week 1 and panic, but Pat Lee is your guy, so you're pretty comfortable?
McKenzie: Yes, I am comfortable with what he can do. As far as matching up with certain guys, he can do that well. I'm scared to put him on Calvin Johnson, you know, but he's smart and he understands the defense and what they're asking of him. If he just plays within his game, he will be fine. Corner is one of those deals where some guys want to take chances and try and make a play and do something outside of the defense, and that's something we don't want them to do. He should be fine. They will put him in a position to succeed.
Q: How much of a logistical issue is it to get six snappers on one place for a tryout?
McKenzie: Trust me, instead of six it could have been 56. I was getting information, by the end of the game I already had a list of guys. Lo and behold, when I get home that night and get to the office the next morning, everybody had a snapper for me. We had an emergency board with guys, and then we evaluated more on tape and we just picked out the six guys that we thought we could give a shot. We had a couple of others that didn't work out because Washington had their workout before and they had signed a guy. That's just the way it goes. Couldn't get another guy in here because of travel. Six guys, that was the easy part. Could have been more. That was just something you gotta do. You put those guys in a competitive situation and they see who they're going against, and just go with the guy we felt best about.
Q: Haven't talked to you since cutdown day, how tough a cut was DeMarcus Van Dyke?
McKenzie: It came to the point where you gotta compare guys to others that are out there and the guys that we brought in. And there's no question it was a tough decision. There's no question that he has a boatload of talent, but at the end of the day, as far as developing his skill as far as making plays, and just getting better as a football player, we just felt like bringing in the other guys would be better for the Raiders.
Q: From the outside, you look at Miami, then Pittsburgh and Denver back to back so the feeling is, `they'd better win vs. Miami'' ... look at it that way, or are you of the mind that it's the NFL and they're all tough ...
McKenzie: I really am. You look at the teams and who they have. Like everybody, you look at the quarterback. You look at what type of defense they have and stuff like that, kicking game, what you're going to have be ready for. Every team will be gunning for you. You're talking about a rookie quarterback vs. two Super Bowl quarterbacks, of course that's a different deal, but you get a win anyway you can get it. But that doesn't mean that we put added pressure on ourselves that we gotta win Miami. I'm sure players feel better about playing a certain guy he's got lined up on him, a defensive player, a corner, thinking, I'm going to try and bait this quarterback if they can, versus another quarterback they feel like they probably can't. You're going to take a couple of chances how you play certain guys. But as far as wins, we're not chalking up any wins until we get it, and No. 2, I'm not going to put any added pressure to win Miami versus winning Pittsburgh. I want to win all my home games, to be honest with you. It's always tough to play away. We'll deal with Pittsburgh when they come.
Q: How often do you communicate with Mark Davis? Is that a daily thing?
McKenzie: About every other day.
Q: Both coach Allen and coach Knapp are zone blocking guys. They love the scheme, think it's the best offense to run the ball. Are you as well, or open to what they want to do?
McKenzie: I'm open. I've seen all kinds of schemes work. To me, it's all about coaching it up and all of 'em getting on the same page. I like watching a zone run scheme. When it's blocked right, I've always hated to play against. Usually as a defensive player you hate to play against it. It's not advantageous for the defense to go against that. If they continue to work at execution it'll be fine.
Q: Operating under the assumption it takes awhile to get it down?
McKenzie: Yeah, it does, especially when you talk about the players all being on the same accord. That helps, when you have the same guys in there, so hopefully they more they practice, they more they work, the more they play, and the more D-Mac sees it, our fullback, everybody's involved with it now. Our receivers got to make their blocks. It's not a simple scheme. It's simple as far as football, you block that guy, but defenses don't be still for you, so you've got to know how they attack it. But that's a pretty good scheme. I'm good with the scheme.
Q: There's a criticism that zone scheme is not necessarily good in short yardage. Your thoughts?
McKenzie: No. The thing is, short-yardage, it's not like you're running outside zone or inside. You've got other plays that you can run. You can run the lead. You can run the power. Just because you are a zone blocking team don't mean that you're not allowed to run a guard pull play and a lead play. No, I disagree with that.
Q: A case when you get near the goal line everything is more difficult ...
McKenzie: Yeah. I know we did bad last year in Green Bay scoring on third and short. The players have got to say I'm going to knock you off the ball. It comes down to that, whether it's a zone block, power blocking, lead blocking. Mano-a-mano. Somebody's got to win a block.
Q: Before the Chargers game, did you have that sense of, OK, this is my team, I'm a general manager and this is my first game? Or do you not think like that?
McKenzie: I tried not to think like that. Then when you have some of your buddies around the league saying, `This is your first one,' and I'm like, OK. Some of your friends and family and some of my road scouts, I get a text from Zack (Crockett) or my brother, or Mickey (Marvin). Just win, baby. It's your first one, let's get it. So you can't help but think about it a little bit. You go out there, they got the Black Hole, they're cheering you on. You kind of grasp it all, kind of savor the moment, and the hype of Monday night, too. So, yeah, I kind of got fired up, got excited. But once it kicks off, you focus on the game, seeing how the guys on play.
Q: Since you're a general manager that has turned over all on-field stuff to the head coach, is there a feeling of helplessness that you're not involved? Or are you evaluating?
McKenzie: I'm evaluating, mostly. Can we fix this, this, this and this? During the game it's more evaluation. I'm not getting on the red phone and saying, `Call this play.'
Q: Are you looking at guys, so many of them on one-year contracts, to prove themselves?
McKenzie:There's a constant evaluation. I'm evaluating the game and sometimes I isolate on certain one-on-one situations or stuff like that. Mostly it's just evaluating the game. The next morning, evaluating the tape, seeing if players are coming to play. I wish I could just sit back and just watch the game, but I can't do that. I'm kind of evaluating the game, how coaches are doing stuff, and the flow, and the clock and all that stuff.