Dennis Allen, head coach of the Oakland Raiders, is 18th head coach for the team and he started back in January 2012. Under Allen’s leadership, the Raiders have had back to back 4-12 seasons, leading to Raider Nation calling for Allen’s job at the end of the 2013 season. At the risk of having things thrown at me, I’m glad that Allen has returned for another season.
When he came to the team he inherited a team lacking depth at most positions. A team that was incapable of improving the talent base due to rampant salary cap issues. This left the fan base scratching their heads and wondering if general manager Reggie McKenzie was doing the right thing by bringing Allen on a board, a coach he described as having a great, innovative mind.
The big debate that has surrounded Allen’s tenure thus far is whether Allen is incapable of stepping into the head coach position or if he’s been hindered by being surround by a team that lacks talent. Up until this point in time, he has basically been unable to demonstrate what type of head coach he can truly be. With the ample cap space available to the Raiders in this offseason, McKenzie has worked hard to make sure that 2014 sees a Raiders team that looks nothing like the 2013 team.
The 2014 team is a team that is slowly starting to take shape and is already showing not only a lot of depth and talent, but also a lot of experience. 2014 is going to be the season that Coach Allen needs to prove himself and McKenzie is giving him as many weapons as he possibly can. There will be no excuses this year that Allen was hindered because he was not surrounded by talent.
In an offseason described by owner Mark Davis as transformative, the deconstruction has been quite the lengthy process and Allen himself talks about how the teardown of the team was harder than he thought it would be. “Yeah, it’s been tough. Obviously, in the first year, coming into the situation, there were a lot of new things to learn. New owner, new general manager, new coach…I think that had a lot to do with why we weren’t as successful as we hoped to be. The second year, there was a lot of promise early on, but we just didn’t have the depth to be able to sustain it.”
Allen feels that over the course of the last two years, the Raiders have really built a foundation of core people and he knows that results are expected from him and the team. “There’s not question that this is the year we have to make something happen. We need to show significant improvement this season. We have to show that this is a team on the rise and the record needs to show that,” said Allen while being interviewed recently at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. The Raiders have so far signed 13 free agents and re-signed four of their own players. The team has picked up quarterback Matt Schaub and though Allen acknowledges that they love having competition on the team, as of right now, Schaub is slated to be the starting quarterback over Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. Allen goes on to say, “We feel very confident that he is going to be able to come in and function in that role and be outstanding for us.”
The Raiders currently hold the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and Allen feels that a team is built through the draft. He says, “You raise these guys within your organization, the way you want them to be brought up, so that they play the way you want them to play.” Allen acknowledges that mistakes can be made in the draft. That teams can draft players who just don’t have it in their hearts or in their heads or they just don’t feel football is that important to them. Some players are just not smart enough to process the information fast enough and Allen says that is where the Raiders need to do a great job. McKenzie and the team needs to be able to evaluate all of these factors thoroughly and do their due diligence before diving into the draft.
With many pieces of the puzzle already falling into place, Coach Allen is in a fantastic position to excel and he feels that he is the man to lead the Raiders’ revival. He finally has a team deep at multiple positions, a team that has picked up a lot of postseason experience from new veterans they’ve signed. He says, “I am not worried about trying to prove myself to anybody. I have been in the league long enough and I know what my reputation is in this league. I know I am a good football coach. I want to win. I am excited about getting back to work and getting this team to where it should be. I am confident in who I am as a coach.”