"The one thing I know, is what I don't know. The one thing I did know was I needed to bring the right people in here." -- Mark Davis, upon introducing Reggie McKenzie as the Raiders' general manager on Jan. 10, 2012.
HENDERSON, Nev. -- It's the classic chicken and the egg dilemma in the oft-upside down world of the NFL -- what comes first, the general manager or the coach? And when it comes to the Las Vegas Raiders under the stewardship of Mark Davis, who took control of the franchise upon the passing of his father, Hall of Famer Al Davis on Oct. 8, 2011, the power structure has gone one of three ways.
After hiring McKenzie, Davis stepped out of the way and two weeks later McKenzie went outside of the box and picked Dennis Allen as the team's first defensive-minded head coach since John Madden. Davis, you might say, regretted the hire almost immediately and Allen, after consecutive 4-12 seasons and an 0-4 start in 2014, was fired.
Interim coach Tony Sparano fell out of the conversation either by a) burying a football in the practice field to ward off bad juju or b) getting buried at the then-St. Louis Rams 52-0 or c) both. So it was Davis who took the reins on finding the next coach. Madden, who, along with Ron Wolf and Ken Herock, had advised the younger Davis on the hiring of McKenzie, was a sounding board for Davis when he hired Jack Del Rio as coach in 2015. McKenzie ran the roster, while Del Rio ran the game.
But when Jon Gruden, long a target of Davis, let it be known in late 2017 he was ready to rejoin the Raiders and help shepherd the move to Las Vegas, Del Rio was done. So too was McKenzie, who had not heard of Gruden rejoining the Raiders -- Al Davis traded the coach to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2001 season -- until seeing reports of the move the morning of the 2017 finale. Del Rio announced his own firing after the season-ending loss at the Los Angeles Chargers and McKenzie lasted 13 games with Gruden, who was given near total control of football operations.
Enter Mike Mayock, who was brought in from NFL Network to help run the draft and who immediately acknowledged that Gruden had final say on personnel matters. Davis told ESPN.com it was a "51-49" proposition, one that shifted into Mayock's favor over interim coach Rich Bisaccia with the sudden resignation of Gruden on Oct. 11 in the wake of his email scandal.
But with Mayock fired earlier this month, Bisaccia a viable candidate to hold onto the head coaching gig after leading the Raiders through an unreal amount of turbulence to the team's first playoff berth since 2016 and only its second since 2002, the question remains -- which position does Davis fill first, GM or coach, and who holds the ultimate power?
As shown above, Davis has gone GM over coach with McKenzie and Allen, a relative 50-50 split with McKenzie and Del Rio and coach over GM with Gruden having the keys to the castle.
A glance at names linked to both the GM and coach openings gives little clue about how the next partnership could go down. Jim Harbaugh, for example, would likely command that "51-49" control as coach to leave Michigan for Las Vegas, while it's hard to see Davis entrusting Bisaccia with more control, what with Bisaccia already referring to himself as an "in-game manager" for the Raiders.
Of the other coaches linked to the job, San Francisco 49ers first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, would seemingly fall into that Bisaccia category, given their lack of experience as a head coach. Same for Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, both of whom have been head coaches before but weren't successful. Both coaches (Bowles with the New York Jets and McDaniels with the Denver Broncos) had unceremonious endings to those stints, especially McDaniels, who was once beaten 59-14 by the Raiders.
Meanwhile, eight candidates have emerged on the GM search, with Indianapolis Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds, a former Raiders intern under Al Davis when Harbaugh was the team's QB coach, the seeming front-runner.
Others to have interviewed include Patriots director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, who is obviously linked to both McDaniels and Mayo, Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly and Cincinnati Bengals scout Trey Brown.
Buccaneers vice president of player personnel John Spytek, linked to Bowles, Pittsburgh Steelers scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt and Atlanta Falcons scout Ruston Webster -- the only known candidate with previous GM experience, serving with the Tennessee Titans from 2012 to 2015 -- are also in the running.
In house, Raiders director of pro scouting Dwayne Joseph, who came to the Raiders with Mayock, has emerged as a candidate. And a duo of Joseph-Bisaccia would represent continuity for a playoff team, no?
Al Davis used to take his time finding a coach, using the interview process as a barometer of what else was going on in the league.
Mark Davis leaned on Madden, who passed away in December. So you have to wonder who is in his circle of trust now and joining the interviews -- former Pro Bowl fullback-turned senior advisor to the owner and president Marcel Reece? Interim president Dan Ventrelle? Senior vice president-director of football administration Tom Delaney?
But again, it comes down to a simple, yet sometimes unanswerable question -- chicken or the egg?
Which, of course, leads to the follow-up -- what, exactly, will the next tandem do with quarterback Derek Carr and his expiring contract? Too soon?