Dennis Allen now has one task he can scratch off his offseason to-do list:
With his hiring of Bob Sanders over the weekend to be the team’s linebackers coach, the Raiders head coach now has completed his staff of assistants. He’s filled the four vacancies created by the firing of his offensive coordinator, offensive line, linebackers and special teams coaches just after the completion of a 4-12 season.
And, by all accounts, the replacements he’s brought in give him a much more experienced group than the one he had as a rookie head coach in 2012.
His final hire was Sanders, who’s coached for the Packers and Dolphins as well as the past four seasons for the Buffalo Bills. He’s coached 33 seasons in the NFL and college and served as defensive coordinator of the Packers in 2006-08.
Other newcomers to the staff are offensive line/assistant head coach Tony Sparano (a former head coach of the Dolphins); special teams coordinator Bobby April, who last served with the Eagles and is a two-time NFL special teams coach of the year; and Greg Olson as offensive coordinator, also a longtime NFL assistant.
The tandem of Olson and Sparano should signal a return to a more power running game, and the fact Sparano has head coaching experience and the other three, too, have been coordinators or longtime assistants in the league should help Allen in his second year.
Sparano’s hiring was singled out by Bill Williamson, ESPN.com’s AFC West blogger, as a big step forward.
“I like this hire,” he wrote. “Sparano gives coach Dennis Allen some much-needed experience to turn to. He was head coach in Miami and was recently fired as the Jets’ offensive coordinator. He was a successful offensive line coach during his stint in Dallas and should deliver a boost for the Raiders’ offense.”
Allen told the NFL Network in an interview last week that the thing that impressed him most about watching film of Sparano’s teams in Dallas and Miami was “he always had some tough football teams,” and said that’s what he hopes Sparano instills in the Raiders.
Allen said he’s hoping Olson can bring out the best in the team’s offense.
“When we went through the interview process, I was highly impressed with him and just his thoughts and his philosophies about how he wants to operate the offense and thinking about really trying to fit our offensive scheme to doing some of the things that our playmakers do the best. That’s something that I look forward to.”
With one task now complete for Allen, it’s on to the next tasks, in working with GM Reggie McKenzie this offseason: getting help in free agency, prepping for the draft and getting back to work after the draft.
Plenty of items on the to-do list when you finish 4-12.