Mike Mayock was just hired as the Oakland Raiders General Manager. Repeat: the Oakland Raiders made a decision to hire an NFL Draft expert as GM.
I have a lot of mixed emotions about this decision, and they do come with the basic observation that I have that the Raiders, like many NFL teams, seem to have this idea that someone white is automatically smarter than someone black. The other part of my mix of reactions has to do with my personal interactions with Mayock. I must admit I am clouded by them, as much as I root for him to do well.
With that, I have a message for Mike: be sure to listen to people, regardless of race, creed, or color or sex.
The reality is there are many qualified NFL Draftniks who are every bit the measure of Mayock, some African American, some white, some jewish, and some black and jewish.
On Joel Buchsbaum The NFL Draftnik, Bill Chackhes, Charles Davis, and Mike Mayock
First, let me get this out of the way: congratulations to Mike Mayock. I’ve covered the NFL Draft since 2005 at Javitz Convention Center. I’ve seen Mike so many times, I feel like he’s part of a small family of people. But, I have to note, back then, and before, there were memories of a guy named Joel Buchsbaum.
Joel Buchsbaum died three years before I covered my first NFL Draft in New York City. I always wanted to be him: the guy who had an encyclopedic knoweldge of college football players and where they fit in the game of pro football. Joel Buchsbaum never played the game of football because he was too small. But his work habits and detailed study earned a solid reputation.
Second, for all practical purposes, Joel Buchsbaum was as much the NFL Draft as the NFL itself. But Joel Buchsbaum, really by being who he was and in New York City, also caused the formation of a whole community of people like him. I’m part of that group, as is Mayock, and people like Bill Carroll, Ric Serritella, Anthony Carrillo, and many more of a nice set of folks I got used to seeing in New York City, then Chicago, then Philadelphia. (I missed Dallas due to my Mom’s illness.)
Here’s Ric Serritella of NFL Draft Bible, talking 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago:
My ability to do so was a gift from the NFL for creating the bid to bring the 2005 Super Bowl to Oakland. Yes, we lost to Jacksonville, but the league saw how terribly the City of Oakland treated me in the process, and how well I did, and said “If there’s anything we can do let us know.” I wanted to cover the NFL Draft. So, the 2005 NFL Draft was my first, and it was there that I met a guy named Bill Chackhes.
Bill Chackhes was part of a group I called “the back of the pack club.” He was quick with a greeting, always with a smile, always had something to say to anyone at the NFL Draft about a player. He had been to something like 30 consecutive NFL Drafts, a streak broken by his need to move to Arizona and a better climate due to his declining health. To me, Bill Chackhes was and still is the closest person I’ve ever met to who Joel Buchsbaum was. What I loved about Bill is something I want Mike Mayock to become: a guy who listens to and talks to everyone, and loves doing so because he gains knowledge in the process.
Sure, Bill was opinionated, arrogant, occasionally ill-tempered: in short, human. In a weird way, those were endearing qualities, because Bill had the gift of gab, and I would guess still does, even though I’ve not talked to him in a while. Bill turned away from covering the NFL, but that’s not something I want to get into now, or in the future. The reason is that for the time he was active, Bill Chackhes was Joel Buchsbaum as far as I was concerned.
There’s another guy among us who fits that description, and who many know: Charles Davis.
You may know Charles Davis as an NFL Football Analyst, but I know him as an NFL Draftnik. Davis is the person I would go to for NFL Draft quotes rather than Mayock because he could rattle off information and yet the press would not flock to his table. Davis, as you know, is also black.
I wondered a loud why Mike Mayock was given a bigger platform than Davis. Davis, like Chackhes and Serritella, listen to people, to the other Draftniks. As you can see where we talk about the Raiders, Charles Davis was and is an excellent NFL Draft Analyst:
Also, Mike seemed at times bothered by Davis smooth expertise in talking about the NFL Draft. I noted that last April and called out Mike for looking like he was disinterested in what Davis was saying on NFL Network:
I always felt Mayock kept his distance from the rest of us Draftniks, and lacked a real detailed knowledge of the schematic part of NFL Football. Mayock was the guy the non-Draftnik press went to for quotes. But, there was the time I did go to him for what I thought would be a great conversation on video.
In 2009, I tried to ask Mike about why the college football passing game seemed to be ahead of the NFL in design. Consider that, at the time, the NCAA played host to a variety of schemes from the Bill Walsh Offense, to the Urban Meyer Spread, to many variations of that, to the Air Raid Offense, to the Tripple Option, and many other approaches.
It was the dawn of Internet-and-social-media-fueled football strategy, where an approach first used in high school, like many no-huddle approaches, made their way up to college, but never seemed to hit NFL Football. It was as if innovation was ignored by the NFL because it came from “below.” I figured Mike Mayock would be good for a conversation about this, but, as you can see, it didn’t go that way…
See, Mike forgot that I wasn’t saying the same passing concept was being used at the NFL level as in college; new passing approaches were being developed. Mike assumed, by his reaction, that the NFL offered more time to work on the passing game – he didn’t listen to what I was saying. Moreover, he seemed annoyed by my take. In turn, I was bothered by his reaction, and made that the last time I asked him about anything.
By contrast, I asked the same question of Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden at the 2017 NFL Annual Meeting, and his eyes lit up and he talked about all of the cool and innovative developments at the college level. Yes, I get that we’re talking 2009 versus 2017, but the same was true then as in 2017: the college passing game was ahead of the pro football passing game from a conceptual perspective. My feeling is this is lost on Mayock. I hope, for the Raiders sake, I’m wrong.
Since 2009, I’ve seen Mike Mayock accuse Cam Newton of not having a heart, and belittle one of the NFL Network female reporters Lindsay Rhodes. I have also seen him grow in his presentation.
I hope, for the sake of the Raiders, that the Mike Mayock that steps into 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway is more like Bill Chackhes and Charles Davis than in the past. Mike’s worked hard to get where he is, no question about that, but he also benefits from a society that’s all too quick to assume that someone white is automatically an authority figure over someone black in the same field.
In my view, Charles Davis should have been approached and offered the Raiders job. I’d love to hear that he was and turned it down. I’m sick and tired of a press dominated by a racist idea that a black candidate is automatically a “Rooney Rule” interview, rather than the best person for the job.
That dynamic harms society. You don’t get the best person for the job. What you get is the best white person for the job. Take Politico forming a panel of “the smartest historians” – but all were white, save for one black person. Thankfully, many took to Twitter to express their displeasure with this institutional racism. It’s about time the NFL saw the same expressions of concern about institutional racism.
In closing, I say this: Mike, I’m rooting for you both personally and professionally to help the Raiders. Just remember to do what other Draftniks have done: listen to everyone. A good observation can come from anywhere and from anyone.
Don’t evaluate players, Mike, listen to people talk about the players and the game.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media