Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie doesn’t speak to the media often, but when he does, he makes his words count.
So after McKenzie spoke to a group of Bay Area reporters Thursday for the first time since the end of the team’s 4-12 season, one thing was obvious: McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen remain very much on the same page.
While there was some speculation during the season about whether Allen might be on the hot seat while going through a rough first year as an NFL head coach, that speculation has been brushed aside.
Allen acted quickly after the season to let go of four assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, indicating that he not only was dissatisfied with the way some things had been handled, but that he wasn’t shy about correcting them.
To McKenzie, it was just one more sign that he had hired the right guy as head coach. Obviously, he believes Allen is the man to turn the team around.
The record wasn’t what he wanted to see, but McKenzie said Allen’s influence was felt in many areas.
“I thought what he did with his team, trying to create a culture in that locker room and get those players to believe that we’re making a change here, we try to do this thing the right way in the way we practice, the way we approach games, and I thought he did a really good job getting these players to buy into what we’re doing,” McKenzie said.
He said he’d talked to many players who were excited to start working toward the 2013 season, “And that’s what it’s all about.”
“You want good response to the head coach, to how he’s leading the team and how they follow him,” McKenzie added. “I was very pleased by the way he led the team and, to be honest, I’m proud in the way he identified the issues and attacked it.
“He didn’t just continue to, ‘OK, we’re going to continue to run this offense and make it work or we’re going to continue to keep this guy or keep this guy.’ He evaluated it. He stood up and said, ‘OK, we’re going to make a change.’ ”
McKenzie obviously was referring to Allen’s dismissal of Knapp and Knapp’s zone-blocking schemes, which turned out to be the best defensive scheme to stop the Raiders’ own Darren McFadden, who had a very disappointing season and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, almost 2 yards less than 2011.
McKenzie said he liked the way the team responded under Allen.
“I like the way he led this team, the way the defense played, especially at the end. It was encouraging. I see much better things in the future. I mean, he’s a rookie coach just like I’m a rookie GM. But for a rookie coach, I like the way he led this team.”
He specifically credited Allen for changing the culture. He watched practices and observed the players and saw Allen was a stickler for rules and instruction. The players practiced hard and “morale was not down.”
McKenzie said he’s involved with Allen in searching for a new offensive coordinator, but doesn’t have a timetable for that hire – or any of the other three hires that need to be made.
One thing that’s certain, he said, is that McFadden figures into the Raiders’ plans for 2013. With one more season on his contract, he’s not going anywhere. McKenzie would just like to see him used to the team’s best advantage.
“It’s obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of plays,” McKenzie said. “That goes without saying. That’s how you’ve got to do it. When you talk about being productive, when you talk about offensively moving the ball, scoring points, getting some plays out of your big-play guys, you’ve got to find ways to let him do what he does best. We didn’t. We didn’t do that.”