Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie knows he must be patient. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Reggie McKenzie didn’t expect to work miracles.
He didn’t anticipate turning the Oakland Raiders into an immediate juggernaut when he became the team’s general manager in January.
He wasn’t talking about going to the Super Bowl or the playoffs or being the team to beat in the AFC West.
Yet, he didn’t anticipate his team looking as bad as it has on occasion, either, in stumbling out of the gate 1-3 in 2012.
“I understand patience,” McKenzie told reporters last week, as the Raiders took some time to focus and regroup in their bye week before preparing to face the unbeaten Falcons in Atlanta this Sunday. “I can channel myself. But nobody likes losing and I’m on the top of that list. We’ll get this thing turned around.”
Getting that Raiders ship turned around and on a winning course is going to be difficult, however, with a defense that has given up 125 points in four games – a record for any Raiders team since the franchise was founded. The Raiders already have lost their starting cornerbacks to injury and have had to remake the secondary, shifting free safety Michael Huff to cornerback.
Raiders players talked in summer training camp about how excited they were to be playing in a new defensive scheme that would feature more blitzing, more defensive fronts and more coverage variations, but that new scheme has been shredded by opponents in the early going.
Oakland has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 71.5 percent of their passes – by far the worst in the league -- while giving up 31.3 points per game and 411.5 yards per game.
Meanwhile the offense can’t get its running game going, and the passing game has been missing key receivers.
Fortunately, says McKenzie, owner Mark Davis is patient and understands a franchise turnaround is going to take time.
“He’s like all of us,” McKenzie told Josh Dubow of the Associated Press. “He’ll be the first to tell you that he wants us to play better. He also understands that we’re trying to retool and improve every day and every game. He totally understands that we’re in this thing not just for weeks 1 through 4. We want to continue and finish strong in Week 5 on out. We’re going in the right direction. That’s the key with him.”
During the bye week, many Raiders players reportedly hung out at the team’s facility, working out and focusing on key problems: the zone-blocking scheme and running game, pass coverage and consistent failures on third down, offensively and defensively.
Quarterback Carson Palmer told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur that, in watching film of Oakland’s third-down woes on offense this past week, it’s been eye-opening and educational.
“We went through ‘em, watched ‘em all multiple times,” Palmer said of the Raiders’ third-down plays. “Repped ‘em in walkthroughs, repped ‘em in practice, against our defense, against the looks we saw in games.
“It’s good to have this chance, this early, to kind of do a self-scout, self-evaluation, to look at why, and it’s really frustrating to watch on film because we’re just an inch off here and an inch off there.”
Now, the Raiders get back to work, with a focus on how to get better – against the 5-0 Falcons, who are scoring 29.6 points per game with an offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White.
As Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said, “There’s no magic formula. It’s a bunch of guys in the locker room and a group of coaches that are committed to each other that are going to continue to work to get this thing fixed.”
As McKenzie now knows, it could be a while.