Rebuilding Raiders, a blueprint

Here is my Wednesday column explaining how to rebuild the Raiders.
WARNING: This is a Raiders column. 49ers fans — feel free to skip this.

TO: Reggie McKenzie, general manager, Oakland Raiders

FROM: Grant Cohn

Reggie, as a favor, I want to help you rebuild the Raiders’ roster.

First, let me commend the job you’ve done the past two years tearing down Al Davis’ and Hugh Jackson’s expensive mess. You’ve made the roster cheap and practically talentless – a blank slate.

Now, you have a high draft pick and more than $63 million in cap space. It’s time to start rebuilding, but you haven’t shown the ability to do that yet. So, I’ve put together some ideas and, if you like them, take them and call them your own. This is between you and me.

Before you go hog wild adding players, you need to fire your head coach, Dennis Allen. Your team isn’t improving under him. He’s a bad head coach, a defensive X’s and O’s guy, a conceptual guy, not a teacher or a leader. You’re going to get your franchise quarterback this offseason and you can’t have Allen around to stunt his growth. You need to replace Allen, preferably with a coach who has a background in offense and experience developing young quarterbacks.

You also have to determine what style of offense and defense your new coaching staff wants to run. There is no sense adding players who don’t fit your new coordinators’ systems.

Next, you must understand this is a two-year rebuild, at least. You’re miles behind every other team in your division – the Broncos and Chiefs are for-sure playoff teams and the Chargers might make the playoffs, too. Adding one franchise player will not propel the Raiders into the playoffs next season.

You need at least two offensive linemen, a tight end, a running back, a quarterback (obviously), at least one wide receiver, two cornerbacks, a safety, two linebackers and two or three defensive linemen. You should have traded Darren McFadden earlier this year, but you didn’t. You will get nothing for him when he leaves in free agency.

You’re learning.

You need to add 17 or 18 players to the roster this offseason via free agency and the draft, mostly the draft. If you sign too many players in free agency, you’ll put yourself right back into Salary Cap Hell, so limit yourself to four free agents.

If you can, sign these four: sack specialist Brian Orakpo, cornerback Walter Thurmond III, wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Greg Olsen.

See, I’m making it easy for you, Reggie.

Don’t waste your cap space by signing a quarterback. Quarterbacks are expensive in free agency. Draft your quarterback like Bill Walsh drafted Joe Montana. That’s the model.

It appears you’re going to have the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft. I know it’s tempting to use that pick on a quarterback.


No quarterback is worth a top-five pick this year – not Johnny Manziel, not Teddy Bridgewater, not Derek Carr. “Not nobody not no how,” as the Gatekeeper in the Wizard of Oz would say.

You need to trade down, Reggie. Twice. Trade down from No. 3 to No. 8, and then from No. 8 to No. 17, or somewhere around there. By trading down you pick up an extra second and third-round pick, and maybe a high pick in 2015, too.

That’s your move, Reggie. You should have done this last year. I blame myself – I should have contacted you sooner.

After you trade back a second time, you’re going to draft your franchise quarterback, and you’re going to get him in the second round.

The only two quarterbacks you need to think about are Brett Hundley from UCLA and David Fales from San Jose State. Forget everyone else. Hundley or Fales is your guy, whichever one when you choose in the second round. Hundley is more athletic and three years younger than Fales, but Fales is athletic, too, and a more advanced pocket passer than Hundley. Both guys have everything you want from a franchise quarterback.

Circle their names and underline them three times. Watch their film. Go to their schools and meet them and their coaches and their trainers and their teachers. I can pick you up and we can drive to San Jose State and UCLA together, make it a road trip. I’m really familiar with UCLA. I went there.

Reggie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

What do you say?

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at

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      1. look, this blog is not “grants blog” it belongs to the santa rosa press democrat. As a santa rosa resident, it is my local blog for the 49ers.

      1. If you sign too many players in free agency, you’ll put yourself right back into Salary Cap Hell, so limit yourself to four free agents.

        If you can, sign these four: sack specialist Brian Orakpo, cornerback Walter Thurmond III, wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Greg Olsen.

        1. I said they should trade down twice in the first round, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t trade down in other rounds as well. I probably should have been more specific. The key for them is adding 17 or 18 players and only adding a few key players in free agency like Orakpo.

  1. I don’t think that the Raiders should try to get a QB in the 2014 draft Grant. It is making more sense to do so in 2015 where there is expected to QB goldmine.

  2. You are the most ignorant sports individual i have ever read, you couldn’t run a pop warner 12 year old team…. no constructive insight, poor grammar, you make little sense, your negative (family trait), please continue to cover archery or marbles.

    1. You may want to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re” before you criticize someone else’s grammar.

      Congratulations on disproving the Raider fan stereotype. Helluva job, Brownie.

  3. Haha good article. The raiders need all the advice they can get. They’re a joke trading down would without a doubt be their best bet, I agree with you there. There is no guy top 5 you look at and say “he’s going to change this team” so why draft there? I wouldn’t. The raiders need SO much help. Stocking up picks is the smartest move. I’ve heard rumors that they’ll try for cutler if he’s available, huge mistake. He’s a mediocre qb that will be drastically over paid. Drafting one this year makes a lot of sense. And I am high on Fales. He’s a good pocket qb, accurate and decisive. Plus has that clutch gene.

    My name is Adam and I too am here to help.

    1. The problem with trading down where there’s no game changers at the top of the draft, is you need to find another team to trade with.

      That’s the problem the niners had in 2005. Number one pick which they reportedly wanted to trade, but couldn’t find a partner.

  4. Next year send the letter to Mark Davis and tell him to sell the team or at the very least fire Reggie, because he does not have exactly a eye for talent.

      1. They need to stay away from the college coaches unless they have extensive NFL experience IE Bill O’Brien. Long time College coaches have a pretty high failure rate.

      2. Grant – Don’t forget about the big game tonight…Duke vs UCLA 4:30 ESPN at MSG! Dickie V and Andy Katz are working the game for ESPN.
        Go Bruins!

      3. @ Coffee
        Chuckie to Oakland? I’d doubt it, because in Davis the younger I think the acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree.
        But your question actually got me thinking of a different Raider HC alum; Shanahan; although NOT for the Raiders, heehee. I have the greatest respect for Shanahan’s work as OC here, as does Steve Young. His work in Denver speaks for itself; he’s got rings. So he’s among the elite coaches by record.
        But what happened to Mike? Has he gone Grumpy Old Man? When he couldn’t get good work out of McNab and they didn’t get along, I put that on McNab for not adapting. Now Mike’s got issues with both RG3 and Snyder, and deactivating Robert for the last 3 games smacks of hyper-egotism and revenge; against both Griffin and Snyder. Benching him for bad play is one thing, shutting down the season is another. I don’t get it.

      4. Have to agree with firing Dennis Allen. He is a defensive guy and for both years the defense has regressed as the season has gone on. They’ve got a pretty good OC in Greg Olson but I doubt he’d be considered for the HCing position. Maybe they’ll hire Greg Roman.

  5. First off Mckenzie and the Raiders need to draft much better than they did last April. Rolling the dice and taking the injury prone and brittle cornerback DJ Hayden over solid D-Line prospects Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei was not the kind of gamble that an empty roster team should make. The Raiders need all the sure fire players they can get. Then they draft a project offensive lineman in the second round=Menilik Watson who had only a couple of years experience and there were still a ton of experienced talent on the board. Mckenzie blows another draft and he will be gone along with Allen.

    1. Grant: “Shafted” may be too strong a term, as Browner did test positive for marijuana. That said, I don’t know how the NFL can justify moving him to Stage 3 in the program for tests he missed while not playing in the NFL. I’m not sure why the NFL is sticking to its guns on this one.

      And you are correct; this suspension is for substance abuse, not PEDs. Last year’s suspension was for PEDs.

      1. “I’m not sure why the NFL is sticking to its guns on this one.”
        Which makes me believe there is more to the story then is being allowed to the press. No way the league hands down this kind of high visibility punishment without having it’s duckies in a row for the legal fight.

      2. That’s why they offered Browner a deal. He turned it down so they were left with going ahead with the indefinite suspension or backing down and the NFL never backs down. I’m guessing if it goes to court the judge will strongly suggest they work it out themselves and they will.

      1. You can’t trade him before the season because you’re telling your fans you’ve given up before its even started, good luck selling any tickets when you’ve traded your only ‘star’ before the season even starts.

        Once it was obvious that their QB situation was still fubar that’s when they needed to pull the trigger. I don’t remember the timeline for his injury this year but I can only imagine what Irsay might have given up for him considering what he gave up for that turd Richardson.

      2. I don’t think McFadden would have gotten them much in return. Final year of his contract, injury history a mile long. Who is going to give up anything significant for that?

    1. If this means anything, or not….Ex-Cowboys GM Gil Brandt has an evening show on SIRIUS NFL Radio…. a couple of weeks ago, the subject of McFadden and is injuries was brought up by a Raider fan that called in, and according to Mr. Brandt, a large majority of teams in the NFL shyed away from DM in the draft because, eventhough he’s fast and shifty when healthy, he has small legs for an NFL RB. GB said that teams were concerned with the probability of injuries to the legs, and would not consider taking McFadden in the 1st round….with his injury history, what’s the best the Raiders could get for him?? A 5th, 6th or 7th? Would they take that low of a pick in return for DM? Perhaps the tried to trade him and got no takers, either because the asking price was too high or because nobody wanted to take on the medical bills.

  6. “sign these four:sack specialist Brian Orakpo, cornerback Walter Thurmond III, wide receiver Golden Tate and tight end Greg Olsen”. That is all predicated on the idea that those 4 players would even want to come to the Raiders. Yes, the Raiders have money, but they this is their 11th consecutive losing season. Why would Thurmond, Tate, and Olsen leave the Seahawks and Panthers, respectively, for a team with no proven coach or gm, no quarterback, and no certainties in a broken-down aged stadium? Again, I understand the Raiders have money, and even if they somehow pull off a miracle and sign those players lets remember the Eagles went on a spending spree prior to 2012 and went 4-12. They must rebuild properly through the draft, then when we can talk about signing marquee free agents when and if they gain respectability.

  7. Not bad Grant. The one thing I’d probably do different is stay at 3 and draft Bridgewater if he was there. If he’s not, the trade down is probably the way to go. I guess you’ve changed your mind on Hundley being a top 3 pick?

    1. I’m a big Hundley fan but if he’s projected to go in the second round, the Raiders have to jump on him. The difference between Bridgewater and Hundley is small. I wouldn’t be surprised if some team took Hundley in the first. I can see Bruce Arians wanting him.

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