Dennis Allen doesn’t look like a forceful Mike Ditka or sound like George C. Scott in “Patton,” growling that “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.”
Yet Allen, a slim, young-looking 39-year-old former safety at Texas A&M who officially was introduced as the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders Monday, delivered a message both Ditka and Patton would endorse.
Allen promised to bring discipline to the Raiders, a team that for a decade has been one of the most undisciplined teams in the NFL.
Last season, the Raiders were 7-4 and appeared headed to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season when they collapsed under rookie head coach Hue Jackson, going 1-4 in their final five games. Their defense – a problem all season – turned even more porous. And penalties, game after game, wiped out positive plays and put Oakland in position to fail.
The Raiders set an NFL record with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards. Though Jackson vowed to correct the penalty problems from the exhibition season through the final game, he never made any headway. The problem was there from Game 1 through Game 16.
Allen on Monday said he will correct those problems.
“The only way that you create habits is through consistency, doing the same things over and over and over,” Allen told reporters Monday. “Well, if you’re committing penalties, that becomes a habit. We’ve got to change those habits, all right? We’ve got to develop the proper habits so that we’re not creating those penalties on a daily basis.”
Allen comes to Oakland having been the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos last season. Though quarterback Tim Tebow was earning the headlines by leading Broncos’ comebacks, it was Denver’s defense that largely was the bedrock of a team that slipped into the playoffs.
New Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, who fired Jackson after this just-completed season, is handing the team over to Allen, whom he hopes can solve the team’s problems on defense and in committing penalties.
The Raiders had franchise worsts in TD passes allowed (31), most yards allowed per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards allowed (6,201). Oakland also allowed 433 points, the third-most points ever allowed by the franchise.
“We are going to put a team out there that is going to play with passion,” Allen said Monday. “A team that is going to play with emotion, a team that is going to play with discipline.”
Monte Poole, a columnist for the Bay Area News Group, noted that Allen will be coaching a team with a new organizational structure. Always before, Poole wrote, owner Al Davis was the ultimate power. Though his head coach was by name the man in control, it was always Davis who had the final say on things, and the players knew it – which undermined a coach’s leverage with his players.
Allen, who will report to McKenzie, will have more authority to instill discipline and his systems, Poole wrote.
“Allen will be given enough room to command respect and demand discipline of his players,” Poole wrote. “That was a constant issue for previous coaches who often were undermined by Davis.”
Allen says the Raiders roster has talent, but the Raiders will need more than talent to win – again, referring to discipline, adhering to a system and paying attention to fundamentals.
“Those are the things that we’re going to develop,” he said.
Added Allen – who used the word “discipline” again and again Monday:
“You coach them firm and you coach them fair, and you hold them accountable to their actions,” Allen said. “I don’t know how it was done in the past because I wasn’t here, but I do know that that’s what I believe in.”