Tomorrow Dennis Allen will officially be introduced as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Of the many questions he’ll be asked there is one that should be a short and to the point answer. Will he retain the services of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator? The answer should be a resounding “yes!”
There is little doubt as to why Allen was able to win over Reggie McKenzie. The former defensive coordinator in Denver has a reputation for being a no-nonsense, discipline driven coach. As Raider Nation will tell you the biggest enemy of the Oakland Raiders in recent years has been the Oakland Raiders.
Costly penalties, a bottom dwelling run defense and inconsistent play has plagued this franchise since that sobering loss in the Super Bowl. Allen’s focus must be the defense. Even with a long list of injuries and a midseason quarterback change Oakland’s offense rolled along as one of the more productive units in the league. That is why keeping Saunders is must.
Continuity has been a dirty word in Oakland. Then again, when you haven’t had a winning season in almost a decade keeping the same pieces in place makes little sense. Oakland has been unable to find the right recipe to take the Raider revival to the next level.
Though he’s been in the Raider franchise for just one year Saunders has proven to be one of the better coaching hires made in the last 10 years. You saw just how explosive Darren McFadden became with a mind like Saunders designing the offense. His pedigree includes coordinating some of the most productive offenses the NFL has ever seen.
Simply put, there is no need for Allen to reinvent the wheel. Leave well enough alone with the offense and roll up those sleeves to get under the hood of the defense. That should be Allen’s directive.
Saunders gives the offense a sense of continuity amid the latest overhaul. That is important considering all the lineup shuffling the offense underwent last season. Plus it gives the Raiders a decided advantage when it comes to choosing a quarterback. Between Carson Palmer and Jason Campbell Dennis Allen has two quality veterans to choose from, both of whom know the offense, that he can entrust as a leader of the offense. Should Allen want to stay the course with Palmer or go back to Campbell he’ll know exactly what he’s getting and both men will know exactly what to expect.
Of course keeping Campbell means having to open the checkbook as JC is a free agent and that also means finding a suitor to take on Palmer’s contract. That is an entirely different subject we’ll discuss soon enough.
Right now the most pressing issues plaguing Oakland are found on the defense. This is where Allen’s presence is most required. He’d be doing himself a huge favor by keeping Saunders. Certainly both McKenzie and Allen want to make this team in their image but change for the sake of change can be foolish. Keeping the course with what has worked while making adjustments for problematic issues is what will be the difference between retooling and rebuilding. Allowing Saunders to keep his job will be an indication that the Raiders are looking to re-up instead of starting all over again.