ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It wasn't like Mike Mayock dropped a bombshell in his interview with ESPN's Steve Levy before the College Football Playoff National Championship game earlier this month when he said, "In all honesty, Jon's got final say."
Of course Jon Gruden has the last word when it comes to which players the Oakland Raiders pick up. Anyone paying attention since Gruden signed that 10-year contract worth a reported $100 million to return to the sidelines last year knew this to be true, especially with general manager Reggie McKenzie being shown the door last month.
But for Mayock, hired as McKenzie's replacement on Dec. 31, to actually acknowledge the situation and add, "I've got zero problems with that," well, that was news. Because ever since Gruden returned to the Raiders (with McKenzie entering his seventh season), the key word was "collaborative," as in Gruden and McKenzie would work in a "collaborative" manner.
Even when Mayock, lured out of his role as a longtime draft analyst for NFL Network, was introduced, the coach stayed on message, saying, "We're going to work together on this."
They get their first chance to publicly show their synergy this week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where Mayock and Gruden's staff will coach the North team.
"The last time I coached the Senior Bowl as the head coach of the Raiders, we drafted Eric Barton and Rod Coleman," Gruden said of the 1999 game. "It was a great tool for us, in Tampa and in Oakland. We have three picks in the first round. We also pick in every other round and we also have the potential to add [undrafted] players after the draft.
"It will give our coaches, I think, a chance to go to Mobile in front of the entire NFL and show what kind of coaching staff we have -- show the energy and enthusiasm that we have as a staff. We are going to sell ourselves to the players."
And those players will try to sell themselves to the Raiders -- and 31 other teams.
Which brings us back to Oakland's GM-coach dynamic. On a traditional team flow chart, a coach should answer to the general manager, so to speak, no? Or is that just baseball talk?
We asked ESPN's 32 NFL Nation reporters this question: Who answers to whom, coach or GM, when it comes to having final say on roster or personnel questions?
Twenty have a dynamic in which the GM, or his equivalent, has final say on such matters, while the Raiders, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons have dynamics in which the coach has final say.
So more power to Gruden, Bill Belichick, Kyle Shanahan and Dan Quinn, right?
Meanwhile, seven teams are seen to have that ubiquitous collaborative effort mindset, including three of the NFL's final four this year in the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.
One team reporter was not sure how the dynamic would play out since the coach was just hired.
A year after leaving Monday Night Football for the Raiders, Gruden is trying to build up a roster that -- by the end of the season -- featured 38 players on its 53-man roster who had not played a single snap for Oakland a year earlier. Plus, only eight of McKenzie's 50 pre-Gruden draft picks, from 2012 through 2017, remained on that 53-man roster.
Time, then, for Gruden (and, of course, Mayock) to hunt and gather.
"If we can eliminate two or three players by coaching the Senior Bowl, sometimes that is just as important as finding two or three guys that you really want," Gruden said. "We are really excited. It will be the fourth time that I have done it. We have to do a good job in this draft, and the best way to do it is to be as close as possible to the players."
Gruden also will need to come to an agreement with his GM, before Gruden has to use what amounts to executive authority.
"I like a little yelling," Mayock told Levy, "a little screaming, a little fighting for what player you believe in. But at the end of the day, I guarantee you, Jon Gruden and I are going to know what a Raider looks like and smells like. I don't think we're going to have any issues."