ALAMEDA – Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden go way back, more than two decades now. Gruden loves talking football with those equally passionate about the sport, so he and Mayock became fast friends after meeting in Philadelphia.
Those meetings -- well, let's call them debates -- over player evaluation have gone on intermittently for years as much for sport as anything.
"I know a lot of people in this business that love football and that study football, but I don't really know anybody that loves it and studies it more than Mike Mayock," Gruden said. "For the last several years we have been meeting behind the scenes on players and talking about one day maybe working together."
That day has arrived. Mayock was hired Monday as Raiders general manager, and will work in partnership with Gruden. The head coach/football czar will have final say on sporting matters, including personnel decisions, but the Raiders needed someone to push back against Gruden while matching his work ethic.
They believe Mayock's that guy, despite this being his first job in an NFL front office. He has been in media since a short-lived football career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and in the CFL, and is widely considered the best NFL draft analyst.
The pair believes this to be a great fit.
That was evident during the interview process, where Mayock emerged as the early and odds-on favorite.
"It's really even hard to describe, because Jon and I talk a lot of football," Mayock said. "I'm not sure what was an interview and what wasn't to be really honest with you. You know, the interview that we did have that was a little bit more formal, I enjoyed meeting some other people in the Raiders organization. They drilled me pretty good and I enjoyed it because most of it was Jon Gruden and me talking football.
Again, I can't tell you how many text messages, phone calls, comments there were, ‘what do you think about this', just back and forth. I was on East Coast time, he was on West Coast time, which put us on an equal level because at 4:30 a.m. he is texting me in the morning. So, it's a different kind of process to be honest with you and a lot of it had to do with the connection between Jon and I."
Mayock was honest in those exchanges about aspects of a GM job that he doesn't know. He has never worked in a front office. He has never helped iron out contracts – salary cap expert Tom Delaney will take control of that -- or execute a trade on the clock. He's an expert on college prospects, and is catching on his pro scouting.
"One of the things I told these guys, and I'm a big believer in when we met, was that I don't have all the answers," Mayock said. "To sit in there and try to pretend that I did, I think would be disingenuous. And the bottom line for me, I was very honest, were some things I needed some help with. I already talked about the mechanics about the daily regimen. So, when you start talking about trades and negotiations and draft day and being on the clock and all of that…
"We'll spend a lot of time getting ready for that draft, trust me, and we'll be ready for free agency. The fact that we've got people like Jon in the building that has a strong opinion and it's all film-based and his background is amazing. We've already been talking about a lot of that stuff."
Mayock is wired like Gruden, a personality type who will educate himself to improve areas of deficiency while learning on the job. Gruden believes he'll be a quick study and be ready for important moments during this pivotal offseason.
"We're going to lead the league in effort," Gruden said. "I will not make any other promises than that. Mayock and I will be committed to work together. We're going to be passionate about what we do. We're going to be loyal to one another and we're going to lead the league in effort. And if we don't, I want the want to meet the two that beats us in that."