It's a rather stunning upset, if you think about it.
Mike Mayock outlasting Jon Gruden with the Las Vegas Raiders would have gotten you some decent betting odds not too long ago. The coach with the 10-year, nine-figure, seemingly iron-clad contract is gone before the first-time, surprise-hire general manager.
Just spoke with #Raiders owner Mark Davis: "I have no comment. Ask the NFL. They have all the answers." Also confirmed that Mike Mayock remains GM and now has 51 percent control of roster decisions, with interim coach Rich Bisaccia at 49 percent. Was Gruden 51/Mayock 49 before.
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) October 13, 2021
That’s merely one surprising development from the fallout of Gruden’s resignation, and it’s hardly the major plot line. It certainly begs the question, for those invested in Raiders Nation: What’s next for Mayock?
On the one hand, the runway is clear. He’s now the unfettered personnel honcho.
On the other, if Mayock were to eventually bail on the mess that exists, would it shock anyone? Likewise, would it be stunning to see Mayock the victim of a power-struggle-to-be-named-later and eventually deemed expendable?
Both feel like realistic, perhaps even likely, possibilities.
Mayock addressed the media Wednesday. Team owner Mark Davis did not. It was an awkward affair, but no fault of Mayock's, really. He did his best to explain what has happened over the past five or six days. Mayock said he didn't want to speak for Davis, but Davis chose not to speak, making it a no-win situation for everyone.
Davis holds the keys to Mayock’s future, but he's not the only one. The next head coach certainly affects things in a big way.
Where will Davis go with his next head-coaching hire? He is not a man with a large league circle of contacts. He hired Gruden because Gruden was family and his dad had hired him years ago. Gruden, who arrived via ESPN, hired Mayock from NFL Network.
There might be only so many former Raiders family members who are qualified to earn the head coach job. How many of them will be down with an arranged marriage with Mayock? And will Mayock want to stay?
Jon Gruden's replacement will help determine the Raiders' GM
Mayock knows plenty of people around the league and generally is well-liked from what we can tell. But what are the odds that Davis’ first or second choice for Gruden’s replacement — especially if it’s a swing-for-the-fences hire — will be OK with keeping the GM in place?
If it’s an in-house hire, perhaps interim head coach Rich Bisaccia or another “family” connection, then maybe Mayock stays. Another route to Mayock sticking around would be hiring someone such as Doug Pederson, who has ties to Mayock when they were both working for the Philadelphia Eagles (Pederson as an assistant and later head coach, Mayock as the team’s preseason TV analyst), or perhaps a Patriots assistant (Jerod Mayo? Josh McDaniels?) whose ties to Mayock ally Bill Belichick could allow for a reasonable accord.
But let’s say Davis has designs on bringing in a big-name outsider. That could be some rock-star college coach or the next can’t-miss NFL assistant.
At the college level, Lincoln Riley, Ryan Day, James Franklin and Matt Campbell are hot candidates. Dabo Swinney is in the midst of a transition season at Clemson. Stanford head coach David Shaw has Raiders ties and might finally be open to an NFL move.
In the NFL, there are plenty of assistants with head-coaching aspirations. Eric Bieniemy leads that list. Other up-and-comers include Kellen Moore, Byron Leftwich, Brian Daboll, Joe Brady, DeMeco Ryans and Kevin O’Connell. If they go the more veteran route, Todd Bowles, Don "Wink" Martindale, Leslie Frazier and Raheem Morris could be candidates.
But the Raiders’ job comes with pitfalls, and big ones now. In the past several months, four of the team’s top executives quit their posts, including team president Marc Badain. Then the Gruden mess happened. It’s not a pretty cleanup.
Those issues could quickly whittle the head-coaching list down. It also could yield bargaining power for anyone offered the job — asking for more money, more say on personnel, or at the very least, the ability to hire their own people.
Plus, ask yourself the question that any aspiring head coach would ask themselves before taking the job: Would I want to work for Davis?
It’s a question Mayock no doubt has asked himself amid the recent chaos. On Wednesday, Mayock defended Davis' handling of the Gruden matter, to an extent. Those words might not weigh quite as heavily once hiring season is here.
Mayock is in charge now. But for how long?
Gruden’s return to the Raiders came in January 2018. The team was a structural mess then. It’s arguably worse now.
When Gruden hired Mayock to be his majordomo almost one year later to the day, it was a fascinating move — respected TV analyst turning decision maker for a vaunted franchise, one armed with a trove of draft-pick ammunition.
Except that Mayock came in knowing that Gruden’s say trumped all. "In all honesty, Jon's got final say, if it ever comes to that, and I've got zero problems with that," Mayock told ESPN following his hiring, and it made clear how the pecking order was going to work.
A former Raiders employee explained it this way to us previously: “Jon handle[d] free agency. Mike’s baby is the draft. But Jon also [could] do whatever he wants with that. He [had] final say.”
So technically, Mayock now controls personnel. Perhaps he enjoys the freedom and gets comfortable.
This is how NFL power grids work. One source of power is unplugged, another one gets stuck in the same socket, and suddenly it’s not adaptable. The new power source indicates that the current structure won’t work as designed; it must be rewired and, well, thanks for your service. Here’s your gold watch, but we’re gonna need that key fob back.
Mayock might want to say, the heck with that, and just walk. There would be no shame in stepping down amid all the turmoil.
Sure, Mayock’s even draft results — armed to the hilt with picks — would hinder his chances of landing another GM spot right away. But there’s a thinking in league circles that he wouldn’t have trouble finding work, either returning to the media as a draft guru or hooking up with another team as a lower lieutenant.
He’s smart enough to know how he’ll be perceived by any outsider, which is that for the major length of Mayock’s term, he has been an underling. He might wield that 51-49 power now, but the next three months of experience aren’t going to convince many coaches who don’t know Mayock well that he’s someone who must be retained.
Mayock might earn praise for how he handles the rest of the season. But it’s difficult to know how much of his input helped the Raiders field a competitive team this season (for the first three games, anyway) and how much of the blame he deserves for an incomplete roster.
And would Mayock even want to remain the team’s GM on what could amount to a short-term prove-it period with a new coaching staff? It’s one of many scenarios where Mayock leaving or being asked to leave feels more likely than Davis entrusting the heft of the franchise to him in one of its biggest hours of doubt.