It’s been a long, long time since the Raiders had any stability at head coach.
Since Jon Gruden departed after the 2001 season, seven men have paraded through Oakland, with only one – Tom Cable – staying more than two seasons (and that was only because Cable took over as interim coach early in 2008 when Lane Kiffin was fired).
Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Kiffin, Cable and Hue Jackson all came and went from 2002-2011. The only consistency around the Raiders during that period was their inconsistency, with owner Al Davis finding and discarding coaches over and over again.
Now, two seasons into the Dennis Allen era, will it be the same revolving door after this season? Or is this genuinely a new period in which Allen will get three or four years under his four-year deal to turn the Raiders around?
At 4-8, the Raiders’ performance over their final four games could be crucial for Allen and his staff to show they’re on the right track. Owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie have said they’re in the midst of a culture change and rebuilding program and focused on the long haul rather than the short term.
Yet a win over the 5-7 Jets this Sunday in New Jersey might go a long way toward cementing Allen’s job for 2014. Over the final four games, the Raiders face the Jets, the Chiefs (at home), the Chargers (on the road) and the Broncos (at home). Games against the Jets and Chargers (also 5-7) appear winnable, which would give the Raiders a two-game improvement for 2012 at 6-10 in a very challenging season.
Five or six victories for a team that a) had to change starting quarterbacks three times since the start of training camp; b) again was often without its top running back; c) lost its standout left tackle in training camp; d) began the season with nine new starters on defense; and e) had no proven tight end or much depth in the receiving corps doesn’t seem all that bad.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have been competitive in most games this season – several winnable games slipped away – and the team’s defense has made huge strides in 2013.
Before this season began, McKenzie said he was pleased with the way Allen adapted after his first season. He changed some of his key assistants, discarded a zone-blocking scheme and showed leadership.
“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,” McKenzie told reporters, in assessing Allen’s first season and postseason moves.
This season, too, Allen has acted boldly with his quarterback situation, first inserting Terrelle Pryor over an ineffective Matt Flynn, and then deciding to go with undrafted rookie Matt McGloin.
Perhaps McKenzie already has made up his mind. Perhaps Allen will return next year, no matter whether the Raiders finish 4-12, 5-11 or 6-10. If he’s committed to the long haul, as he’s said, than this year’s record doesn’t really mean all that much.
But another win or two would certainly provide some tangible evidence that the team is headed in the right direction.