Reggie McKenzie inherited a mess. At this point that’s a lot like saying Lamar Odom married into a family of douchebags. The world knows these things without the need to have them spoken.
None the less it’s how you handle your lot in life that determines your mettle.
From the start the Oakland Raiders mismanaged Rolando McClain. Al Davis bears blame. Hue Jackson most certainly does. And so too does Reggie McKenzie.
Davis drafted McClain despite some serious doubts as to whether or not the Alabama linebacker was productive or a product of the talent around him in college. But that never mattered to Davis who always trusted his instincts more than game tape. So naturally as a top 10 pick McClain was immediately placed on scholarship.
McClain was handed the starting middle linebacker job before he even inked his rookie contract. Keep in mind middle linebacker is a position meant for leaders and McClain never had the reputation of being vocal let alone captain material.
So a subpar rookie year was overlooked because of that deadly “P” word – potential.
In his second year McClain endured the first regime change of his short lived Raider career. The passing of Al Davis gave way to the brief Hue Jackson era. This is where things really went sideways.
McClain’s production was the best of his Silver and Black days but the enabling of Jackson also gave rise to Ro’s sour attitude and sense of entitlement.
As evidenced by the Carson Palmer trade Jackson was desperate to show the world he could run an NFL franchise and win in doing so. He thought wrong. So convinced he was sitting on a potential Super Bowl contender was Jackson that he turned a blind eye to McClain’s first arrest as a Raider.
After being excused by the team to attend his grandmother’s funeral McClain was arrested on assault charges. He would be convicted, appealed and then eventually exonerated as the charges were dropped but the damage was done. Instead of using the moment as a chance for teaching McClain a valuable life lesson, Jackson only saw his own selfish desires. His way to punish McClain was to bench him for one quarter of football, never to question why the young man was in trouble in the first place.
Naturally Jackson’s methods were never going to jive with McKenzie’s sensibilities. So Hue was shown the exit and the second regime change for McClain came to be.
McKenzie and his hand-picked head coach Dennis Allen arrived with the hopes of righting the Raider ship. Yet how they too handled McClain only made the situation worse.
That sour attitude given life by Hue Jackson was again flamed by Allen and McKenzie. The good news was Coach Allen yanked McClain’s scholarship by playing him less and less. The bad news is McKenzie should have ripped up his contract instead of turning his back once Allen suspended McClain.
After having enough of Rolando’s ways Coach Allen asked McClain to stay away. What followed was an attempt to humble the arrogant defender. McClain would never play again for the Raiders instead becoming a scout team running back who was absent from the active roster on Sundays.
While it was obvious McClain’s Raider days were done McKenzie allowed the troubled linebacker to remain employed. Perhaps financial considerations were what made McKenzie pause before hitting eject. To be fair a bloated rookie contract combined with the timing of the start of the new league year didn’t help McKenzie from a financial standpoint. Whatever the case McClain’s time was up months ago it was just frustrating to see him still on the Raider roster. In addition McKenzie refused to even communicate with the immature defender instead deferring to Allen.
At every turn when the Oakland Raiders had a chance to mold, teach or even scold McClain they failed to do so.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not so foolish as to think this was all on Oakland. McClain never held up his end of the bargain. Jogging on the field, smiling for the camera during an arrest, signing a ticket as “F— y’all” and doing nothing to justify his draft status was on McClain. However by failing to take full responsibility for handling McClain the Raiders brought much of that misery on themselves.
McClain’s now unemployed status is his own fault. But how he could even keep the job as long as he did falls squarely on the Raiders.