Great, leave it to the Raiders to hire a deceased, world-famous murderer who once dismembered a Hells Angels biker with a chainsaw.
Oh, dammit. That one-day Wikipedia blackout has forever damaged my research skills.
The Raiders’ Dennis Allen is their reported new head coach, and he’s never been involved in drug dealing of any kind. That’s a good place for a professional football franchise to start when it’s looking to fill an important vacancy. The others would be someone with proven success, someone who’s familiar to his superiors, and someone with experience.
Allen has plenty of recent success on the defensive side of the ball, but no experience whatsoever as a head coach. That’s a troubling fact on his resumé, but not an overbearing character flaw. As we’ve noted before, every year there’s a sexy college coach or foxy free agent. Last year it was Jim Harbaugh, and he’s been San Francisco’s Bar Refaeli. Jeff Fisher was this year’s model, and he could be Lindsay Lohan.
The beauty always lies in what the eye sees when the lights are turned on, and right now Allen is an unknown potential prodigy with impressive recent credentials as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, and Bill Belichick were nobodies once too. Risk is acceptable as long as it’s manageable and calculated, and it feels like the risk Oakland’s taken on with this hiring meets that description.
Tim Tebow should have thanked a number of people for his success this year, and it should have gone in this order: Willis McGahee, Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, and Dennis Allen. Tebow received all the adoration and glory, but it was his defense that held the average margin of victory to a narrow 5.3 points during Denver’s seven wins with their messiah under center, three of which were by three points.
The fatal flaw in Denver’s defense one year ago was glaring every time the opposing offense handed the ball to a running back. In 2010 the Broncos allowed an average of 154.6 rushing yards per game. While they were still ranked in the bottom half of the league (22nd), that ranking isn’t nearly as important as the number that represents their dramatic improvement this year. Miller (drafted) and Dumervil (returned from injury) were added, but their presence was almost solely focused on the pass rush, so with nearly the same defense Allen lowered Denver’s rushing yards allowed per game by nearly 30 yards (126.3 in 2011).
Defense is evidently Oakland’s primary concern, and perhaps specifically the run defense after they allowed a league worst 5.1 yards per carry. But while there’s value in taking that calculated risk and hiring a coach who hasn’t reached supermodel status yet, Allen’s age is still a little concerning.
Experience as a head coach can often be overvalued during the hiring process, because one can only gain head coaching experience by actually being a head coach. That’s the core of Oakland’s risk here, but when that inexperience is combined with youth, an inability to be an effective leader and handle the petulance and petty whining always percolating around an NFL locker room could be too challenging.
Generally, anyone under the age of 40 is considered a young head coach, and Allen is flirting with that barrier (he’s 39). But combine that with his single year as a coordinator, and that age quickly feels much younger.
Allen has only one more year as a coordinator than Raheem Morris did when he was handed the Tampa Bay job in 2009, a job he lost this year after his young plays drastically regressed, and he lost control of the locker room.
Morris had zero years as an NFL coordinator, and Allen has one. When experience is lacking, familiarity takes over to build trust between a GM and his head coach, which is why it’s odd that new general manager Reggie McKenzie wasn’t more aggressive in his pursuit of either Joe Philbin or Winston Moss, whom he worked with in Green Bay.
Now a Raiders organization in a time of transition under a new front office leader is hoping that Allen’s one-year growth spurt will be enough.