Oakland Raiders and the Ever Evolving Coaching Door
Let me start off by saying I have been a lifelong Raiders fan, through all the good (not a lot) and a lot of bad. I have grown accustomed to them ruining football for me every season because I just become that bitter fan that grows tired of them being the butt of the NFL jokes. With that being said, I am still as die-hard a fan as any in the Black Hole. Maybe a little less crazy, but I still love those folks!
I have been hearing a lot of the "here we go again" script in regards to Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie. "Fire DA" is something I regularly see on the various sports websites I frequent. Although I think both Allen and McKenzie are shoe-ins to stay one more year, a Davis is still calling the shots in Oakland. I would not be shocked or surprised to see them both gone, or one of them.
I'll be honest, I hope neither of those happen, but if one of them were seen as a necessary casualty in Mark Davis' mind, I would hope it was McKenzie. Let's be honest, what has McKenzie done to better this franchise? I understand that he was dealt a bad hand with the sad salary cap situation created by an owner wanting to see one last winner before he passed, a lack of draft picks, and a lack of standout talent on the roster. But with the picks he has made so far, what has he landed? Sio Moore is the only one that had significant playing time this season that he has drafted. DJ Hayden was understandably behind after sitting out a whole season after a near death accident on the field, and nothing against him as a person or player, but he could have been had much later than the 3rd overall pick McKenzie almost spent on him, and the 12th pick he eventually did spend on him.
He did massively overhaul a terrible defensive unit from the year previous, and with some creativity in play calling, the unit did decently for the first half of the season. The second half was a much different story, as the league figured out the stunts and mismatches within their schemes, and punished the unit on a weekly basis. Manning could have conceivably put up 60+ points had last game of the season not been decided in the first quarter.
Another area he massively failed was the offensive line. I realize that linemen don't come on the cheap, and good linemen cannot be added easily... but he didn't have enough linemen to make a team period. At one point early in the season, with Veldheer sidelined with his pectoral injury, the Raiders had 3 healthy offensive linemen to end a game. Two should not have been playing because of injuries, but had to out of necessity. How does this happen to a professional football team? Depth is an important part of the roster, and having none regardless of the caliber of player, is plain inexcusable. Also, how do you not have a backup center with experience?!
I'm also sick of hearing the excuses from Reggie. When he first took the job he said that the salary cap was manageable. Now I don't expect him to come in and say this is a big @#$% storm and it's going to take a long time to turn it around. But I also don't want him saying "I can do this," and then the following year, cite that as the reason he didn't succeed. The year after that, same story with little to, no progress. Not to mention, he sent Carson Palmer packing with a substantial paycheck, to play for another team!
With all that being said about McKenzie, let's get onto Dennis Allen. Dennis is a bright young coach that seems to have a good plan for what he wants to do, without the bulk of the players he needs to carry out that plan. Let's not absolve him of all blame either. He seemed disinterested, which might just be his personality, some guys just aren't fire-y. When things started getting out of hand, it seemed like the whole team just quit. I've been on a team like that, I know how it can get into players' heads. Once one bad thing happens, they just expect it all to unravel, it's at this point the coach needs to step in and get things under control. Allen doesn't seem like the guy that will do that.
His players like him-except his quarterbacks- as most of them have voiced their support and hopes that he sticks around. So there is something to be said for that. I know I would have never asked for my coach to come back if he quit on us in the season. But his quarterbacks are a problem. Pryor showed flashes of being a dynamic play-maker early in the season, but seemed to regress when teams started bringing the pressure against a very bad and beat up offensive line. Rather than looking to throw, he was tucking the ball and running for dear life before he even tried to read the pass coverage. Given a better offensive line, and much more reps in training camp, preseason, and some real NFL games I think he could be an answer, though probably not as long-term as we would all like as Raiders fans. McGloin was impressive when he stepped in for Pryor for the first couple of games. He made some NFL throws, and got the ball out to his receivers. He showed that he has what it takes in some capacity to read defenses and make some tough throws to a surprising receiving core. I believe McGloin could be the backup for the foreseeable future, but I doubt he is the long-term answer at QB as well. The way Dennis handled the QB situation once Pryor was healthy enough to play has me doubting he really had a plan at all on the offensive side of the ball.
Now that I have covered most of my perceived flaws with the Raiders management and coaching staff, let's look at why I want the Raiders to stay the course with these two in control.
McKenzie hasn't done much with the draft picks he has had, or his offseason signings. But this might change come 2014. He has a full boat of picks, and last I saw, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 million in cap space to spend on improving the roster. Assuming he doesn't do something drastic like signing a declining veteran QB (Vick comes to mind) to a big contract, that should be a lot of money to go around. I think he must resign Houston, Veldheer, and Jennings so that will eat up some of the space, but that's a lot of dough to spread around. But let's all remember, spending money doesn't always translate to wins. See the "Dream Team" Eagles of a few years ago.
In terms of Allen, if he is given a better defense he can be a dynamic coach. He showed that he could win games with an average defense in Denver back when they had Tebow as a QB, and the defense was constantly facing 3 and outs by that putrid offense.
This is the year for both men to put up or shut up. Trust me, Raider Nation is growing thin on patience for both of these men!