The Monday following the last regular season game has become a graveyard full of lost direction, unfulfilled promises and utter misery for NFL coaches and their families. As it happens, the Oakland Raiders again find themselves at another crossroads–trying seemingly too hard to right a franchise gone awry.
On what has become known, infamously so, as “Black Monday,” the Raiders will decide the fate of the only good head coach they have had in the last decade. It seems the fan base is longing for the return of Jon Gruden even though that scenario is as unlikely as John Madden coming back to the sidelines. Certain fans have convinced themselves that Gruden will come riding on a white horse and rescue this one proud franchise. Let me tell you why that will not happen.
Gruden has had two bad experiences with ownership, including one with the current owner’s father, he has a cozy job in television where he in involved in football and makes a good living without having to put in the long hours, he would want final say in all personnel moves, meaning a powerless general manager, and lastly he would want a situation where the team has enough pieces to build around. For all the fans of the silver and black that are in denial, let me set the record straight by saying the Raiders meet none of the standards to attract a bone fide head coach. Not to mention the horrible stadium situation the Raiders find themselves in.
Not only will the Raiders not attract Gruden, they won’t attract any other prominent head coaches. Which means the only options will start and end with another rookie coach.
To honestly assess the Dennis Allen situation, you have to take off the rose colored glasses and first acknowledge the state of rot the franchise was in when he was hired. This offseason, if he’s still around, Allen would have–for the first time in three years–a full complement of draft picks and a salary cap in the green.
In his first two seasons, Allen has had to deal with the departure of most of the talent that contributed to consecutive 8-8 seasons. That talent, while NFL worthy, was significantly overpriced due to years of financial mismanagement. Richard Seymour’s 2012 salary alone paid for eight defensive starters in 2013. Looking at overall defensive statistics, you amazingly find the Raiders in a similar spot relative to the league. That speaks to the amazing job the defensive staff and Allen have done in taking a bunch of back ups and putting them in good situations to make plays.
Having to deal with the loss of a starting quarterback who threw for more than 4,000 yards, three quarters of the defensive line, the whole linebacking crew, the whole secondary, most of the offensive line to injury, I never once heard this man make an excuse. Playing with a running quarterback who can’t find open receivers, an undrafted rookie quarterback still trying to find his way, the only mistake Allen has made–in my opinion–has been the shuffling of quarterbacks. I think Matt McGloin gives the Raiders the best chance to win and, more importantly, a better chance to be the long-term starter.
Next year, the Raiders will have for the first time enough cap money to attract game changers. Having $64 million in cap space will allow the Raiders to finally play on a level playing field. The right time to judge Allen would be next offseason. Firing Allen this offseason would be a crime.
There are times in life when the tough stretches really test us, this is that time for this franchise. If the rookie owner keeps his head straight he’ll stay out of football operations and let Allen stick for at least another year.
If the Raiders lose to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, as they probably will, Allen would have a record of 8-24 in his first two seasons. While the record indicates a miserable two years, the relative results are in fact not horrible. I’ll give you two other head coaches who started their first two seasons with a 8-24 record: Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson. I’m not suggesting admitting outlandish, just pointing out the fact the judging a coach after only two years is never intelligent.
To answer the fate of Allen, I’ll make a surprising and hopeful prediction; I say cooler heads prevail and he survives this.