At last, an Oakland Raiders coach free from managerial restraint
Hiring a coach has become almost an annual event for the Oakland Raiders, who in 2012 will have their seventh in 10 seasons.
As the first coach hired in the post-Al Davis era in Oakland, Dennis Allen will have a much different task than his predecessors. His official introduction is tomorrow, but he already has started the process of assembling his first staff as a head coach at any level. As he does so, he will not have the former managing general partner looking over his shoulder.
Before his death on October 8, Davis had made almost every important decision for the Raiders over the previous half-century. He chose players, hired coaches and often presented them with assistants in a controlling process that contributed to three Super Bowl titles and plenty of play-off trips when it worked, but also to a current nine-year play-offs drought.
A new managing structure is in place for 2012 with Davis's son, Mark, serving as managing general partner. Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker, as his general manager earlier this month and gave him the power to make all football decisions.
McKenzie immediately fired Hue Jackson, who went 8-8 in his only season as coach, and began a search for a replacement that led to the decision to hire Allen.
Allen got a longer deal than the two-year contracts with options that Raiders coaches had traditionally be given by Al Davis in the past. Allen's contract is for four years, according to sources.
Allen will also be allowed to pick his coaching staff, ending the awkward process of the top man trying to run a team with assistants whose loyalty often was to management, and not the head coach.
"What I'm going to do is empower the head coach to hire his staff, the best possible staff that he can hire," McKenzie said. "We're not going to tie the guy's hands and tell him he has to hire this guy or this guy. It wouldn't be fair to the new head coach. The head coach will have the right to hire any coach that he wants."
Al Saunders, the offensive coordinator, is the only assistant under contract for next season and it is uncertain whether he will return for a second season in Oakland. The receivers coach Sanjay Lal has joined the New York Jets and the defensive line coach Mike Waufle has reportedly been hired by the St Louis Rams.
The status of the other assistants is unclear.
Allen, 39, will be the first Raiders coach to come from the defensive side of the ball since Davis promoted the linebackers coach John Madden in 1969.
In his first season as defensive coordinator in Denver, Allen helped the Broncos improve from allowing a league-worst 29.4 points and 390.8 yards per game to ranking 20th in yards (357.8) and 24th in points (24.4) this season on the way to an AFC West title.
Before his season in Denver, Allen spent five years as a defensive assistant for the New Orleans Saints and also coached for Atlanta.
John Fox, the Denver coach, said he was happy for Allen.
"He's a sharp guy who knows football, has a way of relating to his players and carries himself very well," Fox said.
"Dennis is a strong motivator and teacher with an aggressive style of coaching. He will approach the job with tremendous energy and passion to get the most out of his team."
The Raiders are coming off one of their worst defensive seasons ever. Oakland had franchise worsts in touchdown passes allowed (31), yards per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards (6,201), while giving up the third-most points (433) in the team's history. The Raiders joined this year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers as one of the four teams to allow at least 30 touchdown passes and 5.0 yards per carry in a season, black marks last inflicted on the 1952 Dallas Texans.
The Raiders were the sixth team since the 1970 merger to allow at least 2,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing in a season. They also set an NFL record last season with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards.
Allen will be expected to address the team's historic reputation for breaking the rules of the game.
* Associated Press