As the calendar is set to turn from 2012 to 2013, the Bay Area is basking in pro sports glory. The Niners have locked up another playoff spot, the Giants are reveling in their World Series win and the A’s are still soaked in Champagne from their run to the AL West crown. Even the seemingly always-dreadful Warriors are off to their best start in years. The most consistent franchise, the Sharks, would probably be winning too, if they were playing.
The one black eye in the Bay Area? The Raaaiders.
“Just win, baby,” has turned into, “Just take it on the chin, baby.”
Despite the franchise making major changes in the wake of owner Al Davis’ death last year — bringing in general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen — one thing remains constant: losing.
Even after a 15-0 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Raiders (4-10) are well on their way to being among the five worst teams in the NFL.
Some observers are even starting to question if Allen, in his first year, is the right man for the job.
But let’s take a step back. It’s unrealistic to ask a coach to change the fortunes of a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2002 and is a combined 49-109 in one season. Might as well have him tackle the fiscal cliff while he’s at it.
Yes, the Raiders were 8-8 the past two seasons and 2012 has been a big step back.
But to be honest, neither of those 8-8 teams were going to do anything in the postseason.
And due to a series of bloated contracts, the Raiders spent the offseason restructuring deals and releasing players rather than beefing up their roster. Allen’s hands have been tied.
The troubling thing about the coach’s first 14 games, though, has been his inability to put his stamp on the team. He hasn’t established an identity that says this is a Dennis Allen team. Are they are running team that will ride Darren McFadden until his next injury? Are they going to ride Carson Palmer’s right arm? Will they play ball control with strong special teams units and defense?
While Allen helped the Raiders go from last in the league in penalties to 20th, the defensive woes he was supposed to remedy haven’t subsided. Oakland is dead last in points allowed per game (28.7) and 25th in yards allowed per game (370.8). The offense hasn’t been much better.
When Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers, it was clear from the get-go that his team would play physical and emphasize a power running game using a variety of formations.
“Turnover-prone and defensively deficient” isn’t what Allen had in mind when looking to put his stamp on Oakland. But that’s what his first year has been.
Allen deserves another year at the helm, but he needs an influx of talent and has to develop a formula that breeds success.
If he doesn’t, he’ll be on the chopping block, and this time deservedly so.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.