By Steve Corkran
Monday, January 30th, 2012 at 8:06 pm in Oakland Raiders.
As promised, here is the entire transcript of the Dennis Allen introductory news conference in Alameda on Monday.
Mark Davis: Reggie McKenzie said as we embark on this new era of Raiders football. Change will be necessary. Reggie said the first course of business will be to identify the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Reggie said that he had a short list of candidates. His criteria was not necessarily offensive or defensive minded, neither former head coach or a coordinator. Most of all, the next head coach would be his guy. He wanted a winner who could lead this Raiders team into the future. Someone who could move it forward and into the new era. The new coach will be one who can motivate and lead us to victories and lead us to our ultimate goal of winning championships. During the past few weeks, Reggie would update me on his interviews until late one night I got a call. It was Reggie. With excitement in his voice, Reggie said, ‘Mark, I found my guy.’ With that, I’d like to introduce, please welcome Reggie McKenzie and his guy, the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Dennis Allen.
REGGIE McKENZIE opening statement:
“Today is a great day, a great day for the Oakland Raiders. As you know I wanted to execute a detailed search in finding the next head coach for the Oakland Raiders. This search quickly led me to coach Dennis Allen. To say I was excited after the interview with coach Allen would be a major understatement. Guys, I was extremely excited after this interview. Matter of fact, after the interview I quickly called two people, and that was Mark Davis and my wife. They could feel the excitement I had, and I wanted to let them know, ‘Guys, I think I found my guy.’ When I talk about the guy I was looking for, I’m looking for a guy that could lead these men, that was passionate about the game, that was passionate about teaching, passionate about the Oakland Raiders. Guys, not only did coach Dennis Allen do that for me, he exceeded those expectations. Coach Allen is extremely bright, extremely intense, and he’s focused on one thing — and that’s what we all are focused on – and that’s winning championships. And that is our No. 1 goal, is to win the championship. At the Senior Bowl I went and had another interview with coach Allen. After thorough conversations and going back and forth on a whole bunch of things, I let him know, ‘Coach, would you like to become the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders?’ And he gladly said, ‘Absolutely.’ Guys, I want to welcome you to the 18th next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Dennis Allen.”
DENNIS ALLEN opening statement:
“I just want to start off today by just saying really exactly how excited I am for this opportunity. What a great opportunity for me and my family, to be a part of such a great organization. This organization has really been an outstanding organization throughout the years, and it’s a great privilege and an honor for me to be the next head coach, the 18th head coach, of the Oakland Raiders. I couldn’t be here without a lot of people. There have been a lot of people that have molded me throughout my career, throughout my life, made me the type of man that I am, made me the type of coach that I am. Unfortunately we don’t have all day, so I can’t thank everybody that I’d love to be able to thank, but there are a few people that I want to make sure I get an opportunity to thank, and some of them are in this room right now today. First and foremost, I want to make sure that I say thank you to Mark Davis, to Reggie McKenzie for giving me this opportunity, for having faith in me and believing in me and giving me the opportunity to coach this football team, and I’m going to do everything I can to prove you right and make you proud. I want to make sure I say thank you too my wife and kids. Family is extremely important to me. There’s nothing more important to me than my family. They’re sitting down here in the front row. This is my wife Allison (spelling??), sitting right here in the front, my son Garrison – stand up there bud – here’s my daughter Layla (spelling??), she’s the shy one. But they’re extremely excited about the opportunity. And I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. Their support and their backing of me throughout my career – you know, as coaches, we work long, tireless hours at time, and we spend a lot of time away from our families at times. We need that rock at home to make sure everything’s taken care of, and that’s what my family is to me.
“I want to make sure I say thank you to my mom and dad. Obviously without them I wouldn’t be here today. They instilled a lot of my core values and things that I believe in and the things that allowed me to get to this position, and without them this wouldn’t be possible, and want to make sure that I say thank you to them. There are so many other people that I’d love to be able to thank and mention by name, so many countless friends, so many countless family members, countless coaches, teammates, all the way from Little League on that have helped get me to this point. I can’t call them all out by name, but I want to make sure to say thank you to all of those people.
“The Oakland Raiders are a team with a rich tradition, a rich history, a championship tradition, a team that’s won three world championships, a team that’s had four AFC West championships, a team that’s won 17 division titles in 41 years in the National Football League. That’s a great tradition and a great building block for us to build on in what we’re trying to get accomplished here. Al Davis was a big part of developing that tradition and a big part of setting the foundation for what we are and what we’re going to become. This is a new day in Oakland Raider football. We’re progressing forth and we’re going to set our own goals and aspirations and the things that we want to try to get accomplished within the organization. This organization is committed to winning. Mr. Davis used to say commitment to excellence, and we are committed to excellence within this organization. I remember watching the Oakland Raiders, growing up back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and just watching what a great team they were, and I just really admired the way that they played the game. They played with toughness, with physicalness, with passion for the game, they played with a respect for the game, and that’s the type of team that you’re going to see with the Oakland Raiders as we go forward.
“I want to take an opportunity just to say thank you to the fans, the Raider Nation. I know what an incredibly great environment it is over at the Coliseum to come in and play a game. It’s very tough, tough environment to play in. We had the opportunity to come here and play this year as I was with the Broncos, and it was an extremely tough environment to play in. We’ve got a great fan base of loyal, passionate fans, and we’re going to do everything we can to make you proud of the type of team that we’re going to put on the field, because we are going to put a team out there that is going to play with passion, that is going to play with emotion, that is going to play with discipline, that is going to play the game the right way with a respect for the game and a respect for the people that have played the game before them.
“The vision for the future of the Oakland Raiders is going to be just that. It’s going to be a tough, smart, disciplined, committed football team. See, you don’t win football games in the National Football League by talent alone. There’s a lot of other things that are a part of that. Those are the things that we’re going to develop, and those are the things that we’re going to preach on a day to basis to our players, because we do have talented players. We have enough talent in our team to compete for a championship, and that’s what our goal is going to be every year. We’ve got to play smart, we’ve got to play tough, we’ve got to play disciplined, and we’ve got to be committed to doing the things that it takes to win in the National Football League, and those are the things that we’re going to do.
“On offense, I know a lot of you guys probably want to know, hey, what’s your offensive philosophy, what are you going to do here, how are you going to play defense, what are you going to do there? I’m going to sum it up real quickly for you guys. On offense, we’re going to be up-temp. We want to be fast, we want to be aggressive. You’ll hear me use that word a lot, aggressiveness, and I think that’s critical in the game of football. We want to be fast, we want to be up-temp. We’re going to be able to run the football and run the football solidly so we can stay ahead of the chains on first and second down. And we’re going to be explosive in the passing game. We’ve got those weapons in place to be able to do that, and that’s what we’re going to do. On defense, again, I come from a defensive background, and my mentality has always been and always will be that we’re going to be an aggressive, attacking style of defense. We’re going to be an aggressive, attacking style of defense that’s built on stopping the run and getting after the quarterback, and those are the things that you have to do to be successful in the National Football League. And finally, on special teams, again, our coverage units are going to be fast and aggressive. We’ve got some of the best specialists in the game and our returners are going to be explosive.
“Guys, I can’t tell you how excited I am about the opportunity to be a part of the Oakland Raiders and to be the 18th head football coach of the Oakland Raiders. It’s a new beginning for us. We’re moving forward, and I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about the things that Mr. Davis is doing, I’m excited about the things that Reggie McKenzie is doing, and this is a team that’s going to be committed to winning in the future. And with that I’ll take your questions.”
Agnes Sasaki: “Coach Allen, I’m Agnes Sasaki, and my husband Digger Sasaki. He has had season tickets from the beginning. When I met him, he was single. Thank goodness, he had two seats. Now, we have a 3-year-old granddaughter, and she’s been to three games already. She lives down south, but we’re interested in taking her to the Raiders (games), and she just enjoys it a lot. We’re privileged to be representing the Raider Nation, and I will be asking three of the questions. As Courtney said, there were so many submitted. But, once again, I will ask the questions from the fans.
Question No. 1 is from Paul, Beth and Emily Entwistle. Coach Allen, welcome to the Raider family. As season ticketholders, we are very proud of the Raiders unique and meaningful connection with former Raider players. In a post Al Davis era, how do you, as the head coach, fulfill Al Davis’ vision – the greatness of the Raiders is in its future – while continuing the Raider tradition of a strong connection with our past?
Allen: “Well, first and foremost, we do embrace the Raider tradition. There have been so many great players that have played here, so many great people that have been a part of this organization, and we do embrace that tradition. We welcome those people to be around because they are a part of the foundation of what the Oakland Raiders are and what the Oakland Raiders are going to be in the future. Moving forward, though, this is a new day. This is a new Oakland Raiders. We’re going to proceed forward, push forward, and be one of those teams that’s going to smart, tough, disciplined and do things the right way. We’re going to build a team that we want our fans to be extremely proud of. Every time that we go out on the field, we’re going to play with a respect for the game and a passion for the game that you can be proud of.”
Agnes Sasaki: “Question two is from Robert Johnson. First of all, he says, welcome to the Oakland Raiders, coach Allen. My question is this: I feel the talent level among NFL teams is fairly even. What’s the most critical thing that a head coach must do to get his players to play their very best?
Allen: “Well, a head coach’s job, and a coach in general, is to lead, motivate and inspire. That’s what our job is to do. We got to lead these men so that they want to follow us. We got to motivate them to play better than they’ve ever played before. We’ve got to inspire them to heights of greatness. Those are the things that we want to try to do with this football team. We do have the players in place to compete at the highest level of the NFL. What we have to be able to do is, we have to do it with more consistency and discipline on a day-to-day basis.”
Agnes Sasaki: “Thank you. Question three is from Charles Stokes. What is your No. 1 priority with the 2012 Raiders?”
Allen: “Our No. 1 priority with the 2012 Raiders is, we’re here to win a championship. At the end of the day, that’s why we’re in this business, to win championships. That’s what our goal is going to be every year that we step foot on the field.”
Q: What are you going to do to succeed in instilling discipline in this team, where so many of your predecessors failed?
A: “Well, I can’t speak for what’s happened in the past but I know, from what I’ve dealt with, the thing that we’re going to do … The only way that you create habits is through consistency, doing the same things over and over and over. Well, if you’re committing penalties, that becomes a habit. We’ve got to change those habits, alright? We got to develop the proper habits so that we’re not creating those penalties on a daily basis. It starts with how you operate in practice, OK? And we’re going to operate in a manner in practice that, we’re going to preach discipline, and discipline is going to be a fundamental factor in what we do every day. If we preach fundamentals and we preach discipline day in and day out, and we’re consistent with it as a coaching staff, the players are going to fall right in line.”
Q: Reggie, was Allen at the forefront of your thoughts when you commenced the search for “my guy?”
A: “Yes. Coach Allen, once I started putting my list together, I targeted coach Allen. I did not intend and did not want to throw out who my list of who I was looking at. But coach Allen was on my target list, absolutely, from the start.”
Q: Why did it take so long to hold the introductory news conference?
McKenzie: “To get from the Senior Bowl to here? Today? Well, we set the press conference for today. Once we agreed and the contract was signed, we started work that day. We just delayed to have this press conference so all the logistics … I was in Mobile, Alabama. We had too many things going on. But nothing particular.,”
Q: Enough talent on defense or radical changes coming?
Allen: No I don’t think radical changes are what need to be made. I do think that there … obviously just with all aspects of the game you’re always going to try to upgrade your team in whatever way that you can but I do still feel like there’s a talented defense. I feel like we got enough players, both on offense and defense, that we can win a championship with.
Q: Who’s the OC?
Allen: We’re in the process right now really of formulating our whole staff. Right now that process is going extremely well. I’m not going to get into who those guys are right now. There will be a time and place when we make those announcements but we are in the process of formulating our whole staff.
Q: Is Saunders in the mix?
Allen: The type of OC I’m looking for is really, at the end of the day, the same things I talked about offensively and what we want to do. We want to be a up-tempo offense that can run the ball and be explosive in the passing game. So those are the things that we’re looking for, for guys that can get that accomplished. Al Saunders is a guy that is under contract with us right now. Again, we’re exploring all our opportunities … err our avenues, excuse me, as far as what we’re going to do there.
Q: What about Allen drew you to him before the interview?
McKenzie: Researching coach Allen, to follow where he came from and what led him to Denver. When he got to New Orleans, going from the defensive line to the secondary, I saw how the secondary vastly improved. They won the Super Bowl with Dennis as the secondary coach. And what he did in Denver to turn that defense around, it made me take notice. So the more I researched, the more I talked to different people, I couldn’t get a bad word from anyone about coach Dennis Allen. So he was on my list and I needed to see for myself who this coach Dennis Allen was. When I did, you know, everything was good.
Q: Passion and discipline … two things you were looking for?
McKenzie: Those were some. Of course I was definitely looking for a coach with great passion. He had all of that and then some. I respect the man Dennis Allen. The more we talked football, the more I respected his detailed outlay for the game, his plan, how smart he was. I’m talking football smart. It was unquestioned. All of that was positive. To me he had everything that I was looking for in a head coach.
Q: Will you call plays on defense or let your coordinator do it, and have you talked to Carson Palmer yet?
Allen: Number one, I’m going to be heavily involved in all aspects of the game, in all aspects of the game-planning, offense, defense, special teams. I don’t believe the head football coach can do an effective job as the head football coach if he’s calling plays, offensively or defensively. So from that standpoint, on Sundays I will be a game manager on Sunday with a lot of input on what we do both offensively, defensively and special teams. In regard with your second question, I have talked to Carson Palmer. Carson Palmer is extremely excited about what we have going here. He’s looking forward to the future and he’s excited about the opportunities here.
McKenzie: Same here. I’ve spoken with Carson. Matter of fact I met with him. He came to see me and he’s excited and we’re excited for him.
Q: Biggest challenges going into first coaching job?
Allen: Anytime you go into a new venture, just the unknown is the biggest challenge. I’m not going to sit here and say I know everything there is to know about being the head football coach, because I don’t. But those are things … I’m a smart enough guy that you learn those as you go along, and I’ve got a great mentor, great resources that I can count on to give me advice anytime I need it. I’ve got Sean Payton, who is one of the … really a brilliant, innovative offensive coach but also an outstanding head coach. He understands exactly how to run a program and how to work with players. I just spent a year with John Fox, who’s really done a great job throughout his career with Carolina and then in Denver. There’s several resources. Dan Reeves is another guy that … he brought me into this league and gave me my first opportunity to coach in the NFL. I’ve got some great resources that I can rely on and lean on in times when I hit a situation when I need some help.
Q: What made this so attractive a job for you?
Allen: I heard a lot of people talk about what a great tradition that they had here with the Oakland Raiders. At the end of the day, what I was really concerned with was who are the people that are leading the organization now? The people who are leading the organization now are Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie, and when I looked across the table at Reggie McKenzie, I knew that was a man that I believed in and that I trusted in. That was the only thing that was a concern to me, and that was what really drew me to this job.
Q: Strange you had the instant connection?
McKenzie: Strange but it was exciting. I was glad that I had that feeling. That’s what you go out to interview guys for. You want that connection. I wouldn’t say strange but it was good.
Q: How will you put your stamp on this team?
Allen: Really about the same way I was able to have a part in some of the other organizations that really were down a little bit and we were able to bring them back. When you look at the New Orleans Saints, we were 3-13, Sean Payton goes in there, I was a part of the first coaching staff there. We took a team and went to the NFC championship game the very next year. Four years later, we’re in the Super Bowl and winning a world championship. The Denver team last year was a down team at 4-12. We turned that team around, won a division title. Those are the same things that I intend for us to be able to do here. Listen, it’s not going to be an easy task but we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work. There are a lot of things that can be accomplished through hard work and dedication and those are the things we’re going to try to get done.
Q: How do you get vets to buy in?
Allen: I think first and foremost if you want people to believe in what you’re selling you have to believe in it yourself. That’s the first and foremost thing that we’re going to make sure that we do. We’re going to preach the message that we believe in. If you’re passionate about the message that you believe in, I firmly believe you can get people to follow you. Our message to these players is that we’re going to look for tough, smart, hard-working, committed football players that want to be the best. We’re not going to settle for anything less than that.
Q: Are you a 4-3 guy?
Allen: The first question about 4-3, 3-4. I think a lot of times way too much is made out of whether you’re a 4-3 or a 3-4. That’s just the amount of defensive linemen or linebackers that you put on the field. We’re going to be multiple that we’ll line up. We’re going to do a lot of different things on defense. Again, we’re going to be attacking and aggressive in a bunch of different areas. I don’t’ really get hung up on the 4-3, 3-4 personnel. We’re going to find out what our players can do the best. We’re going to put them in the best positions we can so they can be successful and play the game at the highest level.
Q: Why four years for Dennis when past coaches got two?
McKenzie: Guys, I will not ever discuss contracts _ players, coaches, anyone in that fact. I will tell you this. I’m committed to Coach Dennis Allen and what we’re going to do within the next few years.
Q: What are the key areas to address on offense and defense?
Allen: First of all when you talk about key positions and key things we have to get addressed. Obviously the most critical position in all of football is the quarterback position. I’m excited about the fact that we have some guys here that I think are fully capable of competing at the highest level at the quarterback position. I think overall offensively we have a pretty good nucleus of guys that we think we can compete with. Obviously there are going to be a few things as Reggie and I go through the personnel together. There will be a few things that we’re going to have to make sure we address. Specifically from a defensive standpoint I think we’ve obviously have to look at some of the things in the secondary and make sure we have the right things in place there. I think we have the nucleus of a solid football team. With Reggie and I working together and seeing things eye to eye, we’re going to make sure we get the right people in here and we have the right people to get this job done.
Q: Is Jason Campbell in the mix
A: He’s a free agent, just like all the free agents. We’re going to evaluate the situation. We’re going to bring the best 80 man roster to compete. That’s all I can tell you. Without naming names If Jason is one of those guys that we target and we want him to compete. Then we’ll go after him. We’ll go after good players.
Q: Playoff level talent on defense?
Allen: Yeah, actually I do. I do think we have playoff level talent, and again, just like any other year, there’s always critical pieces you got to make sure that you add to that team to give yourself a chance to be successful. No different than any other situation. I do feel that we have a nucleus of talent, we’ve got some places that we’ve got to get better at. We’ve got some holes that we make sure that we fill. That’s what Reggie and I are going working out this offseason, to give us the best people and the best players to do that.
Q: Age 39, is there where you thought you would be?
Allen: First of all, I don’t think you ever want to set boundaries on yourself. I’m excited about the opportunity to be there, and I don’t think you can ever apologize for being young. Don’t set boundaries on yourself. Work hard, and just continue to do your best in everything you do and good things work out, I firmly believe that. And So whether I’m ahead of my personal schedule, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m ahead of my personal schedule or not, but I certainly am excited about this opportunity.
Q: Divisional rival, how much of an edge?
Allen: I think just the fact that I’ve been in this division is obviously an advantage for me. At the end of the day, we’ve got to compete against the Kansas City Chiefs, we’ve got to compete against the Denver Broncos. This is a very, very competitive division and I’m glad that I had an opportunity to work in it for a year so I have a better feel for what we’re going up against.
Q: Raiders have had history of giving players a lot of freedom, latitude, you’ve been described a disciplinarian, is this a change of culture?
Allen: You know, I wasn’t here with Mr. Davis, so I don’t know exactly how things were run. What I do know is the way that I view, how you coach players, is you coach them firm and you coach them fair, and you hold them accountable to their actions, and that’s what we’re going to do here. I don’t know how it was done in the past because I wasn’t here, but I do know that that’s what I believe in.
Q: If I’m a gifted, undisciplined player, what do you tell me behind closed doors to get me on the right track?
Allen: At the end of the day, we’ve got to have a discussion about, we want to play the best players, we want to play the players that are going to make plays for us and the players that are not going to give up big plays for the other team. And at the end of the day, if we have talented players, but aren’t competing and aren’t making plays, then we have to look at making changes. That’s what being in the first year of your regime is all about. We’re going to evaluate every single player on this team and do everything we can to get them to play the best that we can play.
Q: Good defenses when you were there at Texas A&M, is that where fast, aggressive style came from?
Allen: I think that’s where we first got the fast, aggressive, attacking style, I mean, the wrecking crew there at A&M that I was fortunate enough to be a part of, that was a style of defense that we played, I was obviously fortunate enough to coach under Wade Phillips, who runs the same attacking, aggressive style of defense, so yeah, I’ve been fortunate to be part of some real good coaches and real good teams that have been able to run that style of defense, that’s kind of the philosophy that I take.
How will you be judged by this hire?
McKenzie: “This is the NFL, guys. You’re judged by wins and losses. That’s how we’re gonna be judged. That’s how I’m gonna be judged. We win, good decision. We don’t? Not so good. It’s really that simple. All right?”
What do you think of Rolando McClain?
Allen: “I see a talented football player. I see a very talented football player. I think, just like a lot of things that we’ve talked about already, we’ve got to do our best to make sure we get Rolando to play at the best of his ability on every single snap. Listen, that’s what the goal of any football coach is, is to try and develop and get the best out of their players. And that’s what we’re gonna do, and what we’re gonna strive to do with Rolando. He is a very talented player, and he can make an impact on this defense.”
McKenzie: “Hey, I’m not gonna reiterate what coach said. The guy’s got talent. I mean, hands down. I’m looking forward to getting him in here and watching him go through the offseason and into preseason. Not just him. All these guys. I’m looking forward to meeting these players and getting to know ‘em, getting a good feel for ‘em and seeing how they’re gonna fit into Coach Allen’s scheme.”
Is there an offensive system in the NFL that you particularly admire? At what point in your career did you think, ‘I can be a head coach’? And how many times did you interview for other HC jobs?
Allen: “Well, there’s a lot of great offenses in the National Football League that I’ve watched over the years, so to say that there’s just one that I’m really looking at, and ‘God, that’s what I wish that we could be…’ Again, the exact scheme that you run is not as important to me as I want to be a team that can – I think the more you can substitute, the more you can show ‘em different formations, the more you can show ‘em different shifts, and still at the end of the day be able to run a lot of the same plays and make it simple for your players, that’s what critical. Obviously, I’ll point out one that was extremely impressive to watch, because I was on the team, and that was the New Orleans Saints. They did an outstanding job, and that’s exactly what they did, as far as the up-tempo offense. On your second question about being a head coach – well, repeat the question so I can make sure I answer it the way you want it to.”
At what point did you think, ‘I can be a head coach’? And how many times did you interview?
Allen: “Well, I had two interviews to be a head coach this year. I interviewed with the St. Louis Rams and obviously the Oakland Raiders.”
And before this year?
Allen: “No other opportunities before this year. I think I knew at a young age – I did know at a young age – that I wanted to be a football coach. And it’s interesting, as you go along, when I was in junior high I wanted to be a junior high coach. When I was in high school I wanted to be a high school coach. In college I wanted to be a college coach. In pros I wanted to be a pro coach. So I think with every step that I took, I gained a little bit more confidence and a little bit more foresight to say, ‘Hey, maybe this next step is the step for me.’ So exactly when that was? I don’t know exactly when that was. But I was excited that I got the opportunity to interview with Reggie, and I was excited that he felt confident enough in me in naming me the next head coach.”
Can you break down the structure between GM and coach?
McKenzie: “This is a team effort. When we go about getting players, work on getting a staff in here, how we gonna do things on the football side, we gonna do these things together. It’s not, ‘I got this, you have this.’ We’re not doing it like that. The right hand will know what the left hand is doing. We’re in this thing together.”
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