The Oakland Raiders surprised no one Monday night by firing head coach Dennis Allen and replacing him with assistant head coach Tony Sparano on an interim basis. General manager Reggie McKenzie said during Tuesday’s press conference “we hired Tony as assistant head coach for a reason”.
Owner Mark Davis was fully aware of his teams difficult travel schedule (the Raiders will travel a league high 36,106 miles this year, almost 10,000 miles more than the next closest team). He was also aware of the difficult schedule his team has to play (they have the league’s most difficult schedule as its opponents combined for a .578 winning percentage in 2013).
Was it fair then to fire Dennis Allen? No, probably not, but all that Mark Davis asked for was improvement and for his team to be competitive. Neither happened. Reggie McKenzie was also aware of these expectations, and therefore, had no choice but to fire Dennis Allen. Was this all Allen’s fault? Definitely not. McKenzie certainly deserves his share of the blame. Questionable free agent moves such as letting Jared Veldheer, Lamarr Houston, and Rashad Jennings leave, two horrible drafts including reaching for DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson, and coaching hires such as one time offensive coordinator Greg Knapp could soon lead to his demise. McKenzie will most certainly survive the remainder of this year, but another questionable off-season could force Mark Davis to look elsewhere.
Allen’s assistant Coaches certainly didn’t help either. Offensive coordinator Greg Olsen has failed to utilize his biggest weapons in Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece, and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, in his first two seasons, saw his defense give up 28 points per game, and in all three years his defense has been unable to consistently stop the run. It is hard to imagine either of these two remaining with the team past these next 12 games.
Most will question whether the Raiders have enough talent to even be competitive. McKenzie stated today that he believes he accumulated enough talent in the off-season to field a winning team, but so far the players have failed to show the consistency to succeed. It looks like McKenzie will again have to revamp his roster next off-season as his team has the most players 30-years or older in the league, creating the illusion to Raider fans again that this team is starting over.
So what will the plan be for next year? The name Jon Gruden seems to be mentioned weekly and will continue to be mentioned until we hear from Gruden directly or until the Raiders hire a replacement. Mark Davis has indicated that he would like a big name head coach and Gruden certainly fits that profile, but Gruden has been away from coaching since 2009 and now has a great career working for ESPN. Mark Davis believes the Raiders coaching job will be “enticing” due in part to the $60-$65 million in salary cap space available and some key parts such as quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack already in place. The early assumption as well is that the team will have an early draft pick next year as well.
This is shaping up again to be another interesting and eventful off-season for the Oakland Raiders. Fans can only hope it will lead to better results.
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