How will new Raiders coach Dennis Allen do? There are no guarantees when an assistant coach moves up, but there are some encouraging signs.
One is his relative youth, 39. The Raiders have had success with coaches in their 30s — Jon Gruden, John Madden and even Al Davis, who started as a coach before abandoning that process. Resurrecting the Raiders is a long-term project, not a quick fix, and a younger coach has the energy needed for the job.
Another is the fact that the new general manager Reggie McKenzie has his back. McKenzie handled his coach search exactly right, interviewing the candidates on his short list and surprising the media by not choosing Winston Moss, with whom he had worked with in Green Bay, largely because Allen had a better interview. McKenzie irritated some of the local media by not having an introductory news conference earlier, but as he noted Monday, he and Allen were both busy analyzing college players at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., a more important task. The news had already leaked out last week because McKenzie told Denver he was hiring Allen, and he also told the other candidates, so they weren’t left hanging. Good
Allen is a departure from recent Raiders hires, a good young coach who hadn’t been scared away. Davis was good at identifying good young coaches, but he couldn’t get any of them after he “traded” Gruden to Tampa Bay. He wanted Sean Payton, but Payton’s confidantes told him to wait for a better offer, so he wound up in New Orleans with a team that has since won a Super Bowl. He wanted Steve Sarkisian and Sarkisian interviewed, but only to push USC into giving him a raise. He has since become head coach at the University of Washington. He wanted Jim Harbaugh, but Harbaugh had been quarterbacks coach for the Raiders for two years and wanted no part of that.
Lane Kiffin did come to Oakland, but only as a stepping stone to a collegiate head-coaching job.
With Davis gone, it’s a new day for the Raiders and, as I watched Allen on Monday, I heard echoes of Gruden when he took over, a young, aggressive coach who knows what he wants and will work hard and long to achieve it.
He’ll have some advantages Gruden lacked. No longer will players be able to go behind the coach’s back to complain to the owner. He won’t have to worry about getting rid of unproductive players, nor will he have to use outmoded offensive and defensive schemes. Gruden had to battle long and hard with Davis to get winning players in, but Allen and McKenzie will work closely together.
Allen paid tribute to the Raiders’ glorious past Monday, without mentioning the obvious: The good years ended in 2002 and the Raiders have become a laughing stock since, setting records for most consecutive years with double-digit losses and the most penalties and penalty yards in a season.
It will be Allen’s job to reverse that trend. I think he will, but don’t expect it to happen immediately. Too much damage has been done since Gruden left.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.