INDIANAPOLIS — The transformation of the Oakland Raiders remains a work in progress. But the transformation of their new general manager, Mike Mayock, has begun in earnest.
Gone was the snazzy three-piece suit the former NFL Network chief draft analyst often wore to the annual NFL scouting combine. Mayock instead opted for a far more utilitarian Oakland golf shirt with black pants and Nikes on Wednesday morning while meeting for nearly 20 minutes with reporters who cover the league — overtime by combine standards but nowhere near the accommodating marathon sessions he provided in his former role.
Since being hired Dec. 31, a day after Oakland completed a 4-12 season, Mayock has had to quickly accustom himself to scores of new co-workers as well as myriad responsibilities that go well beyond the scope of evaluating incoming college talent.
And, of course, there’s been the matter of getting into lockstep with the face of the Raiders, head coach Jon Gruden.
“It’s a little different, I’m not gonna lie to you,” said Mayock. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind couple of months. I mean, I’ve known Gruden for a lot of years, but you walk in at 5:30 in the morning, he looks at you like, ‘Why you late? I’ve been here an hour.’ It’s been awesome.”
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And, as with any rookie, Mayock’s been thrown into catch-up mode while becoming attuned to his staff. But in self-scouting as well as preparing for free agency and the draft, he feels right at home.
“At the end of the day, evaluating is evaluating. When I sit in a room by myself and watch film — which I don’t get to do as much of as I’d like right now — but when I do that, it’s no different than what I’ve done the last 20 years,” said Mayock, who was a nascent draft observer even before joining NFL Network in 2004.
“I had my scouts in for two weeks, we went 15 straight days, 12 hours a day sitting in a room … putting together our first draft board.
“The difference this week for me is I get more access to the kids, which is helpful. … The more time you get with the kids, I think the better job you do scouting.”
He’ll need to be at his best, and one of his former colleagues thinks that will be more than sufficient.
“Mike’s been training for this for a long time even while he was doing television,” Fox and NFL Network analyst Charles Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “He was doing television analysis, but he was doing it as a GM in training.
“He’s going to be a terrific sounding board for Jon Gruden in terms of player evaluation. Because if there’s one thing I know about Mike, he has conviction about people and players, and he will express that conviction, he won’t just kowtow. He’s gonna tell you what his opinion is, and he’s going to stick on it.
“And that’s good for that organization.”
The Raiders have myriad issues.
They allowed the most points in the league last season and registered by far the fewest sacks (13) after their controversial trade of pass rusher to Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. Gruden’s offense was only marginally better, even with former Round 1 wideout Amari Cooper, who was exported to the Dallas Cowboys for a first rounder at the trade deadline.
The upside of all that misery is that Mayock now owns three first-round picks in the upcoming draft and four of the top 35 selections overall. But he’s adamant that a Raider rebuild will have to go much deeper.
“What I keep trying to tell our staff, from A to Z, is those two seventh-round picks are just as important as the three first-round picks. And the college free agents that we sign after that are just as important,” he said.
“We’re trying to build a culture and accountability and talent. … We’ve got 10 picks, and we value all of them. We need to hit on a high, high percentage.”
To that end, he’s also been busy trying to foster a sense of unity and seamless communication within an organization in flux, both internally and as it prepares for its imminent relocation to Las Vegas.
“I’ve always believed the biggest dysfunction in NFL buildings is an inability for the coaching staff and the scouting staff to be philosophically on the same page consistently,” he said.
Mayock brought the personnel team to his house for an eight-hour confab on Super Sunday before everyone settled in to watch the Patriots and Rams square off.
“Had a beer and ate some barbecue and talked about why those two teams are in the Super Bowl,” he recalled. “You get to know people pretty quickly in this industry, and I think what I missed more than anything kinda being a lone ranger — it’s awesome to sit in your office and watch film all day long and get on the phone and talk to teams — but having a team you’re associated with, and you have skin in the game with, to me, is the reason I’m here.”
But he’s obviously also around to restock this roster with the kind of player he and Gruden envision can restore Silver and Black to prominence.
“Simplistically, what we’re looking for is big, fast guys that can run and love the fricking game of football,” Mayock said, “that love it, they’re professional, they show up every day, they give you a full day of work, and they can’t wait to play and compete on Sunday.
“That oversimplifies it, but that’s what, for us, a Raiders star is.”
A Mayock Raider is also likely to be faster and more athletic, regardless of position, than his predecessor.
However one player who apparently has solid job security is quarterback Derek Carr, who struggled acclimating to Gruden’s playbook in 2018 while trying to execute an offense largely devoid of weapons.
“I think Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback, I truly believe that,” said Mayock. “I think it’s really difficult to try to improve over a franchise quarterback like the one we have in our building right now.”
Mayock himself is already a fixture in said building, devoting an entire wall of his new office to the rosters and depth charts of the AFC West rivals he’s chasing — constant reminders of how much work has to be done to overtake the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Co. in Kansas City while protecting Carr from three teams that all feature exceptional pass rushers.
But Mayock has fully embraced the challenge.
“I can’t wait for the first regular-season game,” he said, “and I can’t even imagine what that’ll feel like.”
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis