A photo of Rich Bisaccia sitting at a desk in a dimly lit room personally handwriting notes to each of the players he coached in his time running the Las Vegas Raiders got plenty of run Monday; the nearly human face of football.
An hour later, Mike Mayock was fired as the team’s general manager; the typically Raider face of football.
They had both come to Nevada under the auspices of the now-disgraced Jon Gruden, as part of the old-school vanguard Mark Davis was bringing to town. Of the three, only Bisaccia succeeded and kept his dignity, and the heavy betting is that these happy days won’t last much longer. Mayock’s successor will almost surely be under no obligation to keep Bisaccia in his current position, and Bisaccia’s reputation was only enhanced by steering the Raiders into one of their rare postseason appearances. He’ll likely surface as a coordinator, but now we’re starting to sound like the ghouls who run the NFL media job fair this time of year, listing all the people interviewing for jobs almost none of them will get as part of the league’s annual “look at us being thorough” smokescreen while still managing in the end to hire someone who fails.
The point is, Bisaccia’s next gig will come with high praise for not being a grandstanding control freak, for whatever good that does.
As for Mayock, he leaves with some sympathy for having tackled a job that only a stuntperson who works with gasoline and tiki torches can, but he also is touched by Gruden’s deeply flawed eye for talent and organization. He was brought in as Gruden’s sounding board and as such has been blamed for the Raiders’ mostly uninspiring draft classes, but that was the business he’d chosen: Facing the media and taking the heat for Gruden’s inspirations until one of them hit, and so few did.
Mayock came to Vegas to provide a public buffer and private consigliere for Gruden and his worst ideas after the much-derided Khalil Mack trade, was immediately provided with the Antonio Brown farce, and it never got much more joyful from there. The Raiders didn’t win enough to make the job fun, and the off-field nightmares made sure fun didn’t creep in under cover of darkness. Mayock looked like he aged in prospectors’ years in the three seasons and two weeks in which he had the gig, and the more regularly scheduled degradations of television work he will surely be offered will seem delightfully trivial by comparison.
It is hard to know what decisions Mayock actually made under Gruden because the new working environment in the NFL is to muddy up the chain-of-command titles as much as possible to provide as little clarity to the outside world as possible. Thus, his time actually running the football operations department was short and largely grim, and he comes off more as a victim than a perpetrator here, but in the NFL, you are often defined by who hired you, whether it’s your dad or some self-aggrandizing egomaniac crackpot with an unlimited supply of bad ideas, or in some cases both. Mayock was given the deceptive title of general manager with none of the power, but some gullible types will fall for the notion that he actually ran stuff and made decisions. He didn’t. Gruden essentially brought him down by hiring him and attaching him by proxy to the messes that resulted.
In any event, this particular cavalcade of unpleasantness we call Second Gruden (exempting Bisaccia, of course) brings the end of the Davis decades a bit nearer, with Mark as one of the last ones standing, for what that may be worth. The next general manager will be the team’s fourth (if counting Gruden as the real general manager who replaced Reggie McKenzie) and, assuming Bisaccia is not retained, the seventh head coach since Al Davis’s death a decade ago. This remains a franchise in a desperate search for stable guidance it hasn’t possessed since the mid-eighties, and all it has in practical terms is a writing desk, some paper, and a pen.