Oakland Raiders: Pros and Cons of Hiring Jim Harbaugh

2 of 3


December 8, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts after a call during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

1) Turnaround Artist

In his first head coaching stint, Harbaugh led FCS University of San Diego to a 7-4 record followed by back-to-back 11-win seasons.  The Harbaugh Myth truly began, however, when he took over a moribund 1-11 Stanford team and transformed the Cardinal into Orange Bowl champions in his four-season tenure.  The 49ers scooped him up, and in his three completed years across the Bay, Harbaugh has compiled three seasons of double-digit wins and finished no worse than NFC runner-up.

To be sure, the Niners organization had not sunk to the depths of disrepair in which the Raiders currently find themselves when Harbaugh donned the gold and red.  Mike Singletary was not a successful head coach by any stretch of the imagination, but he was no Dennis Allen, who by all accounts has neither imagination nor human emotions.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

Still, it’s hard to argue with the success that Harbaugh has built.  Compare to Allen.  In his first major coaching gig as a defensive coordinator, Allen took the 26th-ranked Atlanta Falcons all the way to…28th.  Taking over a similarly stagnant New Orleans Saints defense, Allen accomplished the following ranks in his five seasons: 22nd, 30th, 26th, 17th, 10th.  That’s improvement, I suppose.  You just have to squint to see it.

In his final assignment prior to joining the Raiders, Allen took on a dumpster fire of a Broncos defense (30th), put out the flames, but kept the ashes (and the dumpster).

In sum, over a decade of work in what was purportedly his specialty, Allen helmed exactly one top-10 defense – and it was 10th – and two defenses in the top half of the league.

You can throw ifs, buts, and asterisks at Harbaugh’s history all you’d like.  I’ll take the stats they accompany over Allen’s any day.

2) Intensity

This is what Dennis Allen looks like when he is happy:


Here is the same image, substituting Jim Harbaugh:

Now, here is Allen when he is very, very upset:

Dec 29, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on the sideline against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 34-14. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

And an artist’s approximation of an exercised Harbaugh:

Intensity qualifies as an intangible.  Intangibles are, of course, tricky turf to step on (see: momentum).  Intangibles are the Raiders of evaluative metrics.

But too much complacency is clearly never a good thing and, frankly, it’s all too easy to see the Raiders’ dimming spark.  Sure, hypermasculine emotigasms can alienate a locker room.  Finding the proper balance is, perhaps, the Holy Grail of head coaching, and it may be more elusive than the real thing.

All I know is that watching Allen reminds me of a rock watching paint dry on a wall. Nine seconds of Harbaugh makes me want to run right through it.

Never underestimate the value of a good kick in the ass.