ALAMEDA — Reggie McKenzie heard all the preseason predictions from the pundits that had his <NO1>Oakland <NO>Raiders pegged as one of the worst teams in the NFL.
After a tight road loss at Indianapolis and a home win over Jacksonville to start the season, the Raiders general manager is not ready to crow about his team's success.
"Vindication? No. Not at all," he said Wednesday. "It's way too early. Vindication is when we're in the playoffs. Then it's a whole new season. That's my goal. Our goal is to try and win as many games as we can and get to the playoffs."
McKenzie touched on many subjects in a 30-minute interview with local beat reporters, with much of the focus being on the quarterbacks after Terrelle Pryor beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job in training camp.
Flynn held the top spot for most of the offseason and training camp after McKenzie traded two draft picks to Seattle and committed $6.5 million in guaranteed money to acquire a quarterback he spent four years with in Green Bay.
McKenzie had traded away last year's starter, Carson Palmer, and did not have confidence in Pryor to be the starter at the time of the deal in April.
But Pryor exceeded expectations in the preseason and Flynn struggled with a sore elbow, leading to the decision to go with late owner Al Davis' final draft pick over the player hand-picked by the new regime.
"He's made leaps and bounds from last year, from the time I spent with him<NO>," McKenzie said. "He's done a good job."
Pryor has done well so far. He posted the eighth 200-yard passing, 100-yard rushing game since the 1970 merger in the 21-17 loss at Indianapolis and then posted a 19-9 win in the home opener over Jacksonville.
McKenzie said Pryor is only getting better as his confidence and playing time increases.
McKenzie has spent much of his first two years on the job tearing down the team as part of a massive rebuilding job. Only 14 players on the active roster were with the organization when McKenzie was hired in January 2011.
McKenzie has cut ties with many of the high-profile players he inherited, letting go of former first-round picks Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rolando McClain and players acquired for first-rounders in Carson Palmer and Richard Seymour.
Those moves have led to the Raiders carrying over $50 million of "dead money" on their salary cap, meaning about 40 percent of their cap is going to players no longer in the organization.
"It's not about driving off players who were here and bringing in our own guys," McKenzie said. "It's trying to put together a good nucleus and core group of guys and then funnel other players in that can help complement them and put together the best team. And whoever plays will be whoever the coach thinks gives us the best chance to win. And that's what it's all about."
McKenzie has vowed to build through the draft but that is still a work in progress. The 16 players he has picked in his first two drafts have combined for one start this season and only 278 total snaps on offense and defense.