The Oakland Raiders have solidified their coaching staff in 2014. There were no big changes and Dennis Allen will enter his third season with his coaching unit in place. With all the change at the coaching position for this franchise in recent years this was the right decision. However, two years in a row the Raiders finished 4-12 and that kind of result will surely not be acceptable in the upcoming season. The coaches need to make progress in all phases of the game to be retained in 2015.
Dennis Allen has been tested in his first two years at the helm. Cap issues, injuries, bad free agent signings and draft picks have all made it difficult for him to win games in Oakland. He took over a bad team and despite improvement on the field the score boards were not friendly when the clock struck zero. Allen’s situation is simple he must win a minimum of seven games to retain his job. Anything less will be unacceptable in Mark Davis’ eyes. His staff will have similar situations with their job security as well.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson came to replace Allen’s first offensive coordinator, a walking disaster by the name of Greg Knapp. In 2013 the Raiders offense faced wild inconsistencies at quarterback and an ungodly amount of injuries at the line. The Raiders finished 23rd best in offensive production per game with an average of 125 yards on the ground (12th) and only 208.8 yards through the air per game (T24th) according to NFL.com. The Raiders averaged almost the exact same yards per game and jumped from 18.1 points a game to 20.1 under Olson.
This kind of mediocrity will not fly for another season. If the offense does not improve to 15th or better in the league in offensive production and continues to struggle to score points a change at offensive coordinator will be a no-brainer.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver came into a rough situation when he joined the team and things did not get much better in 2013. The Raiders were coming off of a season in which they were ranked 5th worst in yards allowed in the NFL. On top of that Tarver had to find nine new starters for his defense. In the early going the Raiders were surprisingly stout against the run and were doing admirably in the secondary considering all the new faces. Unfortunately as the year went on the wheels fell off for this unit. The Raider’s finished the season allowing 28.3 points per game for 4th worst in the league while giving up 363.7 yards a game according to NFL.com. The defense remained decent against the run but in the passing game they could not stop anyone.
Tarver undoubtedly entered the coaching position in an immensely challenging time. With that said if somehow the Raiders’ defense regresses he will have no excuse. The Raiders will find talent in the draft and have money to spend in free agency. Finishing in the bottom third of the league in the above three categories will spell doom for Tarver. Expect to see a reliable run stopping defense and many new faces in the secondary to try to help Tarver stay on this staff.
Bobby April came on the staff in early 2013 and is well qualified for the job as special teams coordinator. He is entering his 24th season as an assistant coach in the NFL. His unit was much like the rest of the team in that he had a lot of newcomers to work with and some of his players simply did not perform.
Coverage in the return game was consistent and very few big plays were made against the Raiders on special teams. On the other side of the ball Sebastian Janikowski had an awful year by his standards only completing 74.1% of his kicks in 2013 which was a drastic drop from his great 91.2% in 2012. In the return game no one stepped up and made any sort of noise. Jacoby Ford was M.I.A. and a handful of other guys like Taiwan Jones got opportunities but made nothing out of them. Lastly Marquette King was serviceable but not great and maybe that was just a glaring position due to Shane Lechler’s years of success with the Raiders.
All in all the Special teams unit took steps back in 2013. A lot of that was simply execution on the players’ behalf but April must find some dynamic players to show he is the right man for this job. The Raiders finished in the bottom third the last two years as a special teams unit according to profootballfocus.com and if they do so again April will not be on this staff in 2015.
It is safe to say that if Allen does not win seven or more games he will be gone in 2015 along with most, if not all of his staff. If he can reach seven wins that will likely mean that the team will have improved on both sides of the ball significantly and that his staff stepped it up. These coaches are all in the same boat together and have a lot of work to do. Roster limitations and a small talent pool will no longer be go-to excuses for Allen and company backers this year. They will have their pick of guys to win games this year. Whether they can finish games or simply repeat the recent past will be the difference between staying in sunny Oakland and looking for a new job in 2015.
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