As the Raiders get back to work Wednesday to prepare for their season finale, they know a few things:
First, that at 4-11, they aren’t going anywhere but home the first week of January. The game in San Diego will mercifully bring to an end this first full season in the post-Al Davis era.
Second, they’ll go into Sunday’s game without starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who’s been ruled out of the game with injuries to his ribs and lungs from a hit taken in last week’s loss to the Panthers.
And third, that this horrible season will at least earn them a very high draft choice in April, possibly as high as No. 3 overall, depending on what happens this weekend.
What is in limbo, certainly, is the status of head coach Dennis Allen and his coaching staff. While it seems unlikely that Allen will be ejected after just one season under general manager Reggie McKenzie, is it possible that one or both of Allen’s coordinators be coaching their final games this weekend for the Raiders?
On Monday, the day after the Raiders lost at Carolina, Allen was asked in his meeting with the media about the status of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
“I don’t think this is the time,” Allen said of his chief coaching lieutenants. “We do have one game left. There will be time to assess all aspects of the organization, coaching staff included. We’ll do that at some point after the season.”
Both seem vulnerable.
Knapp has been criticized by Raiders fans since Day 1 over the way the offense has functioned (or not functioned), and the new zone-blocking scheme employed that has turned a team strength (the running game) into a weakness.
The Raiders rank 18th in the league in total offense but 29th in rushing offense, which seems strange, considering the presence of standout running back Darren McFadden.
On defense, the Raiders are 21st in total defense but 30th in scoring defense, giving up a whopping 27.9 points per game.
The Raiders have had no continuity in their coaching staff for years. The head coaching position has been one of constant turnover. Because of that, it’s possible that – if McKenzie still believes in Allen – Allen will get another chance. McKenzie, on taking over the team last January, was careful to say that he is focused on the long-term success of the organization, and that the climb from the bottom will take patience. So, if immediate change is needed, that could mean Knapp or Tarver could be vulnerable and Allen will stay.
Yet if Raiders owner Mark Davis doesn’t like the direction his franchise is headed after 2012, there is always the chance he could act impulsively, just as his father did.
As Bay Area News Group columnist Monte Poole wrote in early December, Davis was very unhappy about his team when it was 3-8 this year, and expressed that to Allen personally on a flight back from Cincinnati after losing to the Bengals on Nov. 25.
“I wouldn’t say it was heated; the most heated I got was when we first got on the plane and I told him it’s not good enough,” Davis told Poole. “And that’s what I said. I told him not long after we boarded: ‘It’s not good enough.’ I admit I was pissed off.”
Said Allen to Poole about his conversation with Davis: “He’s frustrated. He wants to win. We all do. He’s frustrated and he expresses his frustration. So he and I had a long sit-down on the plane and talked about it.”
Expect it to be one of many sit-downs the organization will have after Sunday’s game in San Diego brings the 2012 season to a close. Let the speculation begin.