The Oakland Raiders are currently tied for the worst record over the last decade and have yet to post a winning season since 2002, posting a record of 50-114 over that span. The last sentence is probably informative to none, but still bares repeating to help frame my argument. Perhaps the saddest part of the previous statement is that the Raiders will continue to struggle as long as the most important position of a football team is neglected. Every Raiders fan and NFL fans alike witnessed the highly publicized QB battle play out in the preseason. Will it be million dollar offseason acquisition Matt Flynn or will it be Terrelle Pryor. The truth of the matter…it doesn’t really matter because moderate success at best is the reality given the status of the most Important position. And before the Pryor fans have a seizure, it’s not the quarterback that is the most important position in my eyes, it’s the head coach.
The Raiders have a history of grooming head coaches and finding the next big time head coach. Tom Flores, John Madden and John Gruden all were plucked or elevated from the ranks. The problem is that’s all history. John Gruden was the last coach to roam the black and silver sideline with a winning record and Al shipped him off to Tampa Bay for cash following his 12-4 2000 season that ended in the AFC championship game and the 10-6 2001 season that ended in the controversial “Tuck Rule” game. Since Gruden a parade of career assistants have been speed shuffled and introduced, but the same results.
Of the myriad of coaches, Hue Jackson was the only head coach to generate results. From offensive coordinator (2010) to head coach (2011) his impact was felt. Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and Marcel Reece enjoyed their best seasons under Jackson and have been relegated to obscurity since his departure. Although Reece statistically had a better year in 2012, he was used as a tailback for a better part of the 2012 season. Jackson was shipped off most likely because of the ill advised Palmer trade which a rookie coach should never be in a position to make anyway. Jackson broke even with Jason Campbell as quarterback, an inept defensive coordinator and most of the components that still remain on the team. Understandably Hue was an offensive guy and the current coach Dennis Allen being a defensive guy, the impact on offensive will be to a lesser degree. However, the defense, Allen’s wheel house also took a step back and are near the bottom in most key categories. Namely sacks, interceptions, points allowed and yards allowed.
In sifting through Dennis Allen’s resume, I failed to find a single milestone to point to and say this is why he was tapped to be head coach or why he shows promise. Allen’s sole year in Denver, the defense was one of the best in the league in generating sacks. However, few teams boast two premier pass rushers with the skill set of Von Miller and Elvis Dummerville. Prior to Denver, Allen was a defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints a unit which was near the top of the league in interceptions under his tutelage. Greg Williams was the defensive coordinator, known for his swarming defense, all out blitzes and was quoted prior to a 49ers preseason game as saying “I’m gonna blitz them until their nose bleeds.” These all out blitzes naturally generated a lot of interceptions, yet surrendered chunks of yardage. In any case the Raiders are near the bottom in both Interceptions and sacks during Allen’s tenure, which is why I believe these presumed laurels which Allen could possibly rest his hat are more circumstantial than anything. Oakland will lose a few games on game planning alone, with decisions like running Mcfadden up the middle behind a porous offensive line against a top ranked rush defense in Denver, as opposed to trying to get him in space, not taking the points when you need two scores or not having a backup long snapper prepared to play. You will also see poor development situations like seeing if you have something in Matt Leinart overlooked by the Cardinals and Texans in week 16 of a lost season, so the following season you are forced to trade away draft picks and use cap space because you don’t know what you have in Terrelle Pryor. And even when you do know what you have in Pryor, stunt his development further by delaying the decision to make him the starter, so he gets one week of work with the starting unit before the season starts.
In time Allen may be a great head coach, but at some point Oakland has to enter the conversations when big time head coaches become available. Andy Reid, Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, Bill Cower & John Gruden have all received interest from many teams during their courting, yet Oakland never even interviewed any of the aforementioned despite the fact that any of them would have been cheaper to have on the sidelines than Matt Flynn. Hue Jackson and John Gruden were the last Oakland coaches not to post losing records in almost two decades and they were both ran off prematurely. The offseason will have a flurry of teams gunning for Lovie Smith and John Gruden, Oakland with attractive cap space and presumably a favorable draft spot, should enter the race and try to land a coach who went to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman or perhaps one who won the Super Bowl with Brad Johnson. In the words of Andy Dufresne “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Chances are Allen will remain in play next season, so if you are a Raiders fan be prepared for more excuses than wins until a true general takes the reins.