The sports media did an amazing 180 on the Raiders last week, starting the week by insisting that general manager Reggie McKenzie had been exposed by team losses at the start of free agency and ending the week by saying he had redeemed himself.
Redeemed himself? From what: Inaccurate judgments by the media?
There's an alarming tendency to group-think among the media these days, and group-thinking is almost always wrong.
In the case of the Raiders, it's led to two erroneous decisions: (1) McKenzie doesn't know what he's doing; and (2) owner Mark Davis has him on a short leash.
Taking them in reverse order, when writers or broadcasters ask Davis questions, he tells them he's really disappointed in the team and he wants to see results. They take that to mean that he'll make changes, because they've made no attempt to find out what Davis is really like.
I've known Davis for a very long time. I was invited to his bar mitzvah in 1968 (I couldn't go because my wife and I were visiting her family in Tennessee). When he was an adult, I'd run into him at odd times, often at Golden Gate Fields. What I observed, from his actions and our conversations, was a man who was a pleasant person but one who was shunning responsibility.
That pattern continued until he realized, as his father became more and more frail, that he and his mother, Carol, would be inheriting the team when Al died because, even though Al had sold off enough shares so he no longer had a majority, he had written the contracts so that the team would remain the family's after his death.
So, Mark became reunited with his father; I was at the practice where they hugged — the first time in many years that they'd been together. From that point, Mark prepared to take over, but, as he made clear at the news conference announcing the hiring of McKenzie, that did not include making football decisions. He hired McKenzie because of Ron Wolf's advice and he still is relying on former Raiders like Wolf and John Madden, as you can tell if you listen to Madden's radio shows.
Mark doesn't make the mistake of thinking he knows more than the football people. He is not Daniel Snyder.
McKenzie is doing all the hard work, looking constantly at video of free agents and draft-
eligible college players.
McKenzie made significant moves to strengthen a porous defense, signing pass rusher Justin Tuck and linebacker LaMarr Woodley last week, along with former 49ers defensive back Terrell Brown.
His plan is a simple one: He's signing veterans to short contracts to plug holes, but wants to build a much younger team through the draft.
McKenzie is much like Trent Baalke, the 49ers general manager. You wouldn't want to invite them to your dinner party because they'd be boring, fixated on doing their jobs. But if you own a football club and don't have the confidence or knowledge to make your own judgments, that's what you want.
Mark Davis knows that. Maybe some day the local group-thinkers will figure it out, too.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.