HENDERSON, Nev. -- Entering his third season as Las Vegas Raiders general manager and after 7-9 and 8-8 seasons, Mike Mayock has a specific goal in mind for 2021.
"Jon [Gruden] and I will both tell you that we feel like we need to be a playoff team this year, and I don't think there's any doubt about that," Mayock said Wednesday in his first meeting with reporters since the NFL draft. "You guys are all going to put that in your headlines, and I understand it, but that's what the expectation is. We think we've done the infrastructure work necessary to put us in position, and we've got to take care of business."
Raiders owner Mark Davis was unmoved by Mayock's viewpoint.
"It's always nice to hear somebody say that," Davis said, "but let's go out and do it. I'd be much more impressed if they did it."
Three years in, Mayock's drafts have yielded more first-round questions -- defensive end Clelin Ferrell, safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Damon Arnette, right tackle Alex Leatherwood -- than Pro Bowlers (only running back Josh Jacobs). But Mayock said the Raiders, in the midst of a youth movement, were unusually affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which essentially eliminated any semblance of a normal offseason program in 2020.
"The lack of training camp, I'm not sure if people really understand -- all 32 teams dealt with it, so I'm not complaining, please don't take it that way -- but it's just a different developmental path for the young guys, right?" Mayock said.
Mayock used cornerback Amik Robertson as an example of a 2020 rookie who fell flat but has had a strong camp this year.
"We didn't see any of the quickness, energy, disruption and explosion last year that we're seeing this year," Mayock said. "It's really cool to see this year. It's cool to see the light go on, and a lot of that is not having any offseason program [last year], being confused, playing slow.
"I was frustrated because I felt like, in our system, on both sides of the ball, it's tough on young guys. The volume is tough, especially on offense. It's tough. So no offseason camp was brutal. COVID, managing COVID was hard."
Now, Mayock said the chance to be "back to kind of normal" is fueling his motivation.
"I'm fired up, and it's part of A) being back to normal, but B) more just the accumulation of three years," Mayock said. "My dad used to say, 'Don't worry about whether or not the horse is blind -- just load the freaking truck.' That's where we are. We've assembled 53 players. We think we're going to be a pretty good football team. We're not hiding from expectations."