Jon Gruden's Oakland Raiders control the 2019 NFL draft, and they're making a big splash in hiring one of the world's most recognizable draft experts as their new general manager: NFL Network's Mike Mayock.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported Monday the news that Gruden and Mayock, football guys-turned-TV stars-returned to football guys, are combining forces to run the 4-12 Raiders. Naturally, there still will be serious reservations regarding who's really running the Raiders, especially since Gruden officially pushed out Reggie McKenzie last month but has been running the show with help from director of football research Dave Razzano since his arrival.
But we're fascinated by this hire, one that we're not sure happens without Gruden showing a certain degree of humility and willingness to move out of the way and let Mayock do what he does: evaluate talent. There's no way, we don't believe, that Gruden is handing over roster control to Mayock, but we also don't picture Mayock merely as a "yes guy." He likely wouldn't take the position without a full degree of confidence his input will be utilized in earnest.
It's not hard to imagine where Gruden's Raiders might have gotten what until recently would have been an unconventional hiring idea. Their cross-bay rival San Francisco 49ers just pulled John Lynch from the broadcast booth to be their general manager with zero previous personnel background almost exactly one year ago. And even as the early returns on the work of the Niners' new regime has been uneven, this isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
Few men anywhere have a more intimate knowledge of the overall draft process and, likely, this year's incoming crop, than Mayock, a former Boston College and NFL journeyman defensive back before beginning his college football and draft analyst career with NFL Network in 2001. Like Kyle Shanahan and Lynch, Gruden and Mayock already have a rapport from their time together in TV.
And thanks to the controversial trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, not to mention their own meager debut season in Gruden's second act with the club, no NFL team has a bigger draft war chest over the next two seasons than the Raiders. They have three first-rounders in April — No. 4 and what currently looks like No. 25 (via the Cowboys) and No. 27 (Bears) — and two first-rounders in 2020 (theirs and the Bears').
They also have a head coach who appeared to be in way over his head in Year 1 running the club's personnel department, though the Raiders showed surprising on-field fight to conclude a largely disastrous season.
After the late Al Davis once interviewed Mayock for his GM vacancy, his son Mark Davis will help orchestrate Mayock's introduction to the franchise. It's not unlike Mark Davis doing whatever it took to bring another Al Davis favorite in Gruden — for 10 years and $100 million — back to the organization last season. Mayock actually spent part of last offseason working with Gruden's Raiders, according to Schefter.
“He loves it. He’s a passionate, passionate personnel man," Gruden told Schefter on Sunday of Mayock. "He’s done it for a long time. I know he’s had opportunities to get back into the NFL as a general manager and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see how the dust settles.”
We don't even know where the Raiders will play football next season — heck, a Daily Mail report Sunday suggested they could play in London in the final season before moving to Vegas — never mind whether this fascinating marriage can work. But amid all the bad football and curious decisions, Gruden made the Raiders relevant again last season.
And Mayock's arrival certainly won't change that ... but it could help change the club's fortunes with perhaps the most important draft in franchise history on the near horizon.