The Oakland Raiders had a chance to get DeSean Jackson after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles. There is zero doubt that he would have upgraded the Raiders offense and given them one of the most lethal receiving corps in the game. But GM Reggie McKenzie allowed Jackson to sign with the Washington Redskins without ever having tried to schedule a meeting.
Some point to the idea that McKenzie was scared off by the reports of Jackson’s alleged gang ties– reports many feel are simply a media driven story without much merit. But the more likely reason the Raiders passed on him, which has been cited by more than a few people, is the fact that Jackson is sometimes difficult, and doesn’t always put the team ahead of himself. Jackson, for all of his talent, simply didn’t mesh with the blue collar culture McKenzie is attempting to instill in Oakland. Which, if that is the case, taking Johnny Manziel with the fifth pick in the upcoming draft makes absolutely no sense.
Manziel has talent, there is no question about that. But as has been written about before, he is simply not a good fit for the Raiders as the team is currently constructed. From the standpoint of his skills as a quarterback, Manziel does his best work on the run, when he’s improvising, and trying to make plays on his own. He operates much in the way Terrelle Pryor does. And while Pryor was fine early on in the season last year and made some terrific plays, once teams keyed on stopping him from running, his productivity — and the team’s performance — went downhill quickly. Is it really a stretch to believe that the same thing would happen to Manziel if he were under center for the Raiders? Things he could get away with in college, he won’t be able to get away with in the pros.
It’s a debatable point, but in terms of Manziel not meshing with McKenzie’s new era of Raider football, there is a much larger point to be made.
More than anything, it’s Manziel’s attitude and work ethic that makes him a bad fit for the organization. He seems enamored with being a celebrity and enjoys having the spotlight on him — he also doesn’t like being held accountable for his actions. Take, for example, his experience at the Manning Passing Academy last year. As one of the invited guests, Manziel was supposed to participate in a passing exhibition as well as serve as a mentor to a group of kids with dreams of being a quarterback. But Manziel decided to party it up rather than honor his commitments to the Mannings. He was late to a meeting, and then no-showed for the exhibition. His behavior was so poor, it has been reported that Archie Manning himself asked Manziel to leave.
Aside from his exploits with the Manning Passing Academy, there is also his autograph scandal. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of a college athlete benefiting financially from autographs or use of their own likeness, the simple fact is that as the rule currently stands, it is a no-no. Manziel knew it and chose to break it anyway. After taking a beating for the stupidity and hypocrisy of the rule, the NCAA slapped him with just half a game suspension.
McKenzie is trying to lay a solid foundation in Oakland. He’s trying to instill a new culture and a winning attitude — something that has been lacking for a long time. If he thought that Jackson would be a disruptive influence, why does he think Manziel would be any different? Manziel has demonstrated that he is a player who puts himself before his team and his commitments. He does things his own way, and while that may work elsewhere, it would seemingly go against everything McKenzie is attempting to build. Manziel wants to be a star, he wants to be celebrated and he wants to be the focus of everything. Which seems to be exactly the sort of player McKenzie is seeking to avoid — a message he sent loud and clear by passing on Jackson.