When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Oakland Raiders had selected Khalil Mack, fans across the Raider Nation erupted with out-of-control excitement they haven’t felt in quite some time. And with good reason. It’s been a long while since the Raiders have drafted a player who, on paper, appears as dynamic as Mack does, and has the potential to make such a huge impact on day one.
But it’s important for Raider fans to temper their expectations. As dynamic as Mack may very well be, he’s just one piece to the puzzle and the Raiders still have a lot of work to do.
For all of his talent, athleticism and potential, Khalil Mack is not Oakland’s savior. He cannot single-handedly turn the Raiders into Super-Bowl contenders. To set the bar that high, as some fans seem to be doing, does him a real disservice, and surely sets him up to fail if he doesn’t meet those lofty expectations right off the bat. As gifted and dominant as he was in college, it’s going to take a lot more than just one player – even if he is the best at his position – to help the Raiders climb back to relevance, let alone prominence, again.
Knowing that, and seeing the bigger picture in play, GM Reggie McKenzie has put pieces on the board – Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, CJ Wilson, Tarrell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Matt Schaub, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, and others who he believes will help Oakland begin that long climb. Those players McKenzie brought in all have question marks around them, be it because of age, health, general effectiveness, or how much gas they have left in the tank. What they all have going for them though is their heart. Their desire. They all have a track record of success in the NFL, and an iron will to win. Not to mention the fact that they all also have something to prove, a big chip on their shoulders and plenty of motivation to silence their critics.
Knowing that the learning curve in the NFL is as steep as it is, and how much faster the game moves in the pros, McKenzie brought in a class of veterans who want to win, who know how to win, and can in turn, teach those lessons to Mack and the younger players on Oakland’s roster. For as good as Mack and the other young players on Oakland’s roster are, they still have a lot to learn about playing in the NFL.
McKenzie absolutely knocked it out of the park by nabbing Mack. He improved the team in a big way. But his entire playbook this offseason has improved the Raiders as a whole in a much bigger way. Khalil Mack is an important piece of the puzzle for sure, but he’s not a savior. He shouldn’t be expected to carry the hopes and dreams of the entire franchise on his shoulders. Anybody would crumple under such a heavy weight of expectation. Mack is simply a piece in a much larger design; a design that has the ability to win some games now, but to also set the franchise up for even more success in the future.