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McKenzie gets to work in Oakland

Jan 10, 2012 -- 11:07pm

GREEN BAY – Ron Wolf waited until the end of the 1991 season to fire Lindy Infante. Ted Thompson gave Mike Sherman all of 2005. Reggie McKenzie pulled the plug on his first day on the job.

Not long after officially signing his contract to be the Oakland Raiders new general manager, McKenzie fired coach Hue Jackson in a bold first move as he looks to give the organization a fresh start.

The former Green Bay Packers director of football operations simply followed what he learned from his two mentors: As a general manager, you have to make sure you hire your “own guy,” as McKenzie put it.

"I'm going to work my tail off to hire the best coach, the best fit," McKenzie said. "That's all that's going to matter right now. And that starts now. However long it takes, that's how long it'll take. We want to get the right guy."

Fit is precisely the word Thompson always uses when asked about what he was looking for and what he found when he hired coach Mike McCarthy. McKenzie said he’d made up his mind to relieve Jackson of his duties long before Tuesday.

After the Raiders’ regular-season finale, Jackson defiantly said, “I’m going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization ... I promise you that. No question."

When reached by CSNBayArea.com after his firing Tuesday, an angry Jackson said, "(McKenzie) is going to gut this place. … He wants to bring in his own guys. No job is safe right now."

Jackson made the trade for quarterback Carson Palmer after starter Jason Campbell broke his collarbone, costing the Raiders a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional 2013 second-rounder. While Palmer played well at times, he was unable to get Oakland to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, raising questions about how effective that trade was. After starting the season 7-4, the Raiders lost four of their final five games to mark their ninth straight season without a winning record or a playoff berth.

Since 2002, the Raiders have had six different head coaches and all have lasted fewer than three full seasons. Since the start of the 1996 season, the Raiders have had nine different head coaches, the most of any team over that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Finding the next coach will be the first major task for McKenzie, who also must bulk up the personnel department and evaluate the roster in what promises to be a busy offseason.

Owner Mark Davis said McKenzie will decide on the new coach and the personnel decisions, with the coach ultimately reporting to the general manager.

That's a major change from how the organization was run before Davis' father, Al, died of heart failure on Oct. 8. Al Davis made all the major decisions when he was in charge of the team, with many of those now falling to McKenzie as Mark Davis focuses on finding a new stadium and other off-field issues.

"Change happened on October 8th," Davis said. "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. ... My feeling always has been that if my father wasn't here we needed someone to run that football side of the building. I needed to find the right person. I truly believe that Reggie McKenzie is the right man for this job."

They sat down for a six-hour interview last Wednesday, with former Raiders coach John Madden assisting Davis. They quickly finalized the deal and McKenzie signed it Tuesday morning.

He then immediately fired Jackson, marking a rapid fall for the man who was in charge of personnel decisions and coaching after Davis' death.

Immediately, the names of several Packers assistants were put on the list of possible candidates. Among them: Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who interviewed for the Kansas City and Miami head-coaching jobs last week; quarterbacks coach Tom Clements; inside linebackers coach and assistant head coach Winston Moss, a former Raiders player; and safeties coach Darren Perry, who was a Raiders assistant in 2007 and ’08.

“It’s going to be a time for change and I felt there was a need for change at the coaching position from the top, so we’re moving into a new era. No disrespect coach Jackson but this is something I want to do, start anew,” McKenzie said. “I want my guy. Everything is based on performance, but I go with my gut a lot. So when it’s time to make the final call, my gut’s going to tell me one thing. When I interviewed with Mr. Davis, Mark told me the general manager will have the power to hire and fire the coach. Recently, I let him know that I would like to move on from coach Jackson and begin my search for a new head coach. He was OK with that.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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