Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on the field before the game against New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Dennis Allen Debate? Back to the Bay With Rory Anderson

Back to the Bay is a weekly column from Just Blog Baby Podcast cohost Rory Anderson. Tune into hear Rory’s Raiders analysis every week on 

Following the Jets game the Raiders are officially guaranteed a losing record for the many-eth time in the last decade, but possibly for the first time in the decade, this one does not bother me one bit. That is not to say that I am pleased with another losing record, but rather this season although lacking in wins is actually a progression. That may be tough for some people in and out of Raider Nation to grasp, but the fact is this team was not destined for greatness this season. I accepted that back in March when this implosion project really went into full swing, although I admittedly was more optimistic than others thinking they could pull of 6 or 7 wins, which is still plausible based on the teams they have in the next two weeks.

Jets Recap

Before I get into the Dennis Allen “debate” I need to recap the ups and downs of the Jets game which again many people are putting on Dennis Allen’s shoulders which is insane. This game had so many weird defensive mistakes it was really shocking. People love to assume that when a defense gives up a big play or is beat it is due to the lack of preparation of the team which is the responsibility of the coaching staff. That is making a huge assumption which nobody can really justify, but what is factual is competitive teams and winning teams are prepared teams and if a game is close it is because the coaches have put them into a position to succeed and the players executed. There is a difference from being unprepared and not executing and I am going to give you some examples of the difference:

Question: Why is Porter sitting in a zone while the deep man is bracketed by a LB/CB combo and Holmes comes wide open? The play concept makes no sense which tells me there was poor execution.

Look at the push from the middle of the LOS to the right side. That is a solid hole as well, but Barnes gets blow off the ball which kills the play. Execution issue again.

Shall we blame the coaches?


Jenkins is in perfect coverage from the call, but he simply does not execute and misses another interception.

If this was DJ Hayden not making this play I would never hear the end of how terrible of a draft pick he was. Porter is in perfect position to at minimum get a pass defense and does not.

Feel free to slam Dennis Allen for the quarterback rotation, I was not happy with it, but Pryor has to make this throw.

And people still wonder why Pryor is not starting?

Again feel free to beat up Allen for the flip flop, but McGloin cannot make this throw.

And Charles Woodson also dropped an interception. 2 missed opportunities by the Raiders already.


There was a free defender in the secondary on this play to be clear.


Reminds me of the Dallas game…


I wonder why the Raider lost this game, do you? Don’t get me wrong, there were several good screen captures I grabbed, but I do not want to turn my entire column into a picture gallery. The Raiders were consistently put into position to win and the play calling was highly effective. There really were only a couple of plays where the play calling was clearly the issue. One such example was the Ivory screen play on third down that went for 30+ yards, but for the most part the issue again has been execution not schematic. I know your response because I have heard it several times, “Well, these are THEIR guys so that means it’s on Dennis and Reggie”. In a sense that is true, but it takes the monetary situation to place context to the talent deficiencies. Reggie McKenzie really wanted cornerback Sean Smith whom was signed by the Chiefs for five million dollars a year which drove the Raiders out of the bidding. The Raiders were also trying to sign Cliff Avril who got more money in Seattle, Karlos Dansby who did not want to come to Oakland once he got the Arizona offer, and I could continue to go through the list. Yes the guys on this team are THEIR guys, but add to that, WHOM THEY COULD AFFORD.

Dennis Allen “Debate”

To me this is not a debate. It is an absolute no-brainer, Dennis Allen NEEDS to be coaching the Raiders next season. Some of the arguments make sense, but many are not even grounded in facts. For instance, the claim that the Raiders have not been properly prepared for games on a consistent basis is entirely untrue. As I said before, when a game is close it is because a team was properly prepared but didn’t execute. Granted, the Eagles game was an absolute disaster, but I am not going to fire a head coach for one poor game. Let us go through game by game discussing the issue:

  • Colts: If Janikowski hits the field goal at the end of the second quarter, then the Raiders are not forced to score a touchdown to win.
  • Broncos: At the time, the Raiders had held the Broncos to its fewest yards and points of the season.
  • Redskins: The Raiders defense was stout until the end of the game when the Redskins played ball control. Matt Flynn’s pick six single handedly lost the game.
  • Chiefs: Through the third quarter the Raiders were in this game, but once the defense realized how limited Terrelle Pryor is in conjunction with both offensive tackles being third stringers, the Chiefs sat on the short routes and forced Pryor to his left or to stay in the pocket. This was the end of the Pryor momentum.
  • Eagles: Utter disaster, blame the coaching staff.
  • Giants: Another game when a pick six pretty much lost the game for the Raiders and a disgustingly bad interception.
  • Titans: Everyone remember that 50 yard Hunter touchdown where he burned Phillip Adams? The final play was a bad call, but how can we blame Dennis Allen for not having a pass rusher?
  • Cowboys: Go read my column from that week. I have a dozen screen caps of missed tackles many of them on third downs where the Raiders had the Cowboys in perfect position to force a punt.

There it is. Is Dennis Allen blameless? Of course not, but let’s criticize him for the mistakes he made on things he can control. I am not a Dennis Allen “fan” in the sense that I am convinced he will bring the Raiders a Super Bowl, but I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have no idea what the Raiders have in Allen. I know he is calm, patient, stoic, and from the ways the players describe him in radio interviews, he is thorough, intelligent, and highly respected in the locker room. What the Raiders need more than anything in order to be considered a stable organization and attract talent is a consistent coaching staff. Dennis Allen is Reggie’s handpicked guy and I guarantee what attracted him to Allen was his response to the obvious cap implosion that was coming. Reggie fired Hue Jackson who was arrogant, brash, and made rash decisions such as the Carson Palmer trade, and he found the exact opposite in Allen.

Coaches have egos no matter who they are, and more than money coaches want stability. They have families and they want to settle down. This last offseason the Raiders brought in three amazingly talented and experienced coaches in Sporano, April, and Sanders and we have seen immediate results from those coaches. The offensive line play all things considered is much improved, special teams is much better both with returns and blocks, and the linebackers have been better than any year in recent history. These coaches came to the Raiders because they believe in the head coach and they expect stability.

For all the grief Raider Nation has given Dennis Allen they do not admit all of the things he has had to deal with this season which means I will lay them all out:

  • 55 million dollars in dead cap space
  • 1st ever draft pick was a 3rd round compensatory pick
  • Offensive line injuries: Veldheer, Bergstrom, Watson, and Wisniewski are all starters that were injured in preseason. Since the original lineup was (left to right) Veldheer, Bergstrom/Barnes, Wisniewski, Brisiel, Watson the Raiders started (left to right) 3rd stringer, 3rd stringer, backup signed one week prior, planned starter, 3rd stringer signed one week prior and have gone through 21 line combinations throughout the season and at one time started 2 undrafted free agents and a previously cut 6th rounder (Nix, Mady, McCants).
  • Loss of DJ Hayden: Lots of people hate on DJ Hayden but they forget through 5 weeks he was the only rookie with 2 forced turnovers (1 INT, 1 FF), and with him in the lineup the Raiders gave up 22 points per game and since then 33 points per game.
  • Loss of Tyvon Branch: This one has been felt more recently especially after Charles started getting exposed and now with the Usama Young injury which means he can’t be subbed out.
  • Usama Young: All those 3 safety looks are gone.
  • UDFAs: Versus the Jets the Raiders started 6 UDFAs on offense. Need I say more?
  • David Ausberry injury: This is one many in Raider Nation forget, but if they could have him in this offense with Rivera and no Mastrud, that would have been nice.
  • RB injuries: Versus the Jets the Raiders started 2 full backs since all three of their half backs were injured and also gave carries to 2 defensive backs.

Let’s be honest, if your expectations for this team were the playoffs then you are too much of a homer. I love your optimism, but you are not realistic. If you were like me and thought 6 wins would have been impressive then why are you upset? If the Raiders go into the draft with a top 12 pick they may be able to either grab a stud pass rusher/receiver or trade back and get more picks since there will be some highly regarded prospects at the top of the draft.

Lastly, whether you like Dennis Allen or not, what are your options in replacing him? Firstly, the reason why Al Davis could not hire a talented veteran head coach late in life was because he had a short temper with them. Not only did veteran head coaches pass, but so did Jim Harbaugh and Sean Peyton. Hue Jackson who many in Raider Nation love and hold as some sort of odd standard bearer, after he was fired became a position coach and has not been promoted since. He did not receive a single interview for a coordinator position in the offseason.

Jon Gruden recommitted to ESPN taking his name out of the hat, but more importantly his contract requires a full buy out for him to take a coaching job and at 4 million dollars a year, if Mark Davis wants him he will have to shell out 16 million dollars just to buy him out and then pay him around 4.5 to 5 million dollars a season. Does that sound likely to you? What other veteran head coaches are there? Lovie Smith? He always underachieved. Rex Ryan or Jim Schwartz if they are fired? Both are big mouths that have no discipline and have undisciplined football teams that are inconsistent. David Shaw? A man that took over a college program that was built by Harbaugh who now has it humming along and will earn a huge extension, so why would it make sense for him to leave for a rebuilding pro team that may not be able to equal the pay? Besides if you do that you are back to having a rookie NFL head coach.

The players like and respect Dennis Allen. They play hard every game for 60 minutes, they simply lack talent. Firing Dennis Allen simply sets this team back again. He has brought in a new professional culture that players appreciate. Just give the man one more year and then judge him as you wish. And let us be clear, Reggie McKenzie is tied to Dennis Allen. He passed on his personal friend and colleague Todd Bowles to hire Allen and I guarantee a large part of the two interviews was talking about long term plans, so IF Allen is fired it will be Mark Davis that does it which could damage his reputation going forward.

Offseason Plan Updated

I have been thinking about this a lot considering all the money that is available to Reggie McKenzie next offseason. I am changing my opinion on what I think Reggie McKenzie will do and there is one team that the Raiders may be able to feast on. That team is the New Orleans Saints and they are committed to 137 million in salary next season with only 41 players signed and a projected cap of 126 million dollars. They can cut Will Smith to save 11 million putting them at 126 million. They would need about 18 million to sign Graham and sign their draft picks, but in order to get there they would have to cut Harper, Greer, Moore, Sproles, Thomas, Ingram, Butler, and Jenkins or do some amazing wizardry with moving salaries around which would only cripple their cap situation more the years after. Just to franchise tag Jimmy Graham they would need just over 6 million dollars which would still be a feat. With all of the cuts required, the Saints would still have no cap space and even more roster spots to fill with free agents. It would require Drew Brees to either take a massive pay cut or to restructure his deal which again would only make their cap situation worse moving forward.

With all that in mind, I think the Raiders take a run at Jimmy Graham assuming he hits free agency, give him a record 6 year 60 million dollar contract (APY similar to Gronkowski deal) with 25 million guaranteed and then sign C/OG Brian De La Puente to a 4 year 16 million dollar deal and move Wisniewski back to left guard. Then in the draft they get a pass rusher like Barr, Mack, or Murphy in round one, then versatile pass rushing defensive tackle Aaron Donald in round two, and safety Deone Buchanan in round three.

Chiefs Game

Just because I have done bullet points this time:

  • Stop Charles which they have been decent at under Allen.
  • Stretch the defensive backs vertically so they don’t sit on the short routes. Luckily McGloin can make those throws.
  • Run the ball effectively. The Chiefs still average giving up 4.5 yards per carry.
  • Continue to confuse Alex Smith who said he has never been so confused during a game before.
  • Limit turnovers.
  • Thank God Houston is out of this game.
  • Come find me, I will be at the game in section 136!

Short and sweet.

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