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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