A transcript of coach Dennis Allen’s breakfast media session at the owners meeting as provided by the Raiders:
Q: How will Peyton Manning fit in the AFC West?
Allen: I think obviously Peyton is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, so he creates a big challenge for all of us. One of the things, when you look at the quarterbacks in this division, you think about Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, this is one of the better divisions in football as far as the quarterback position goes. So, I think it’s an awesome challenge for all of us in the division. I think every defensive-minded coach in this division in excited about the challenge.
We’ve been in this league long enough that all of us have played against him a couple times. We have a feel for what he likes, what he’s looking for. I think the biggest thing on Peyton, just like all quarterbacks, you can’t just sit there and do one thing all day long and expect for him to not figure you out. We’ve got to do a great job of changing up the looks.
Q: Seems like you guys are losing some good players there?
Allen: You know what, we knew what the situation was when we were going into it. We knew it was going to be a tough situation. I think Regge’s done a great job of managing everything as we’ve gone through this. You go through it every year. Every year, you have good players that you lose. And, you’ve got to find a way to regroup and replace those guys and that’s what we’re trying to get done.
Q: On starting a new era with the Raiders:
Allen: It’s an exciting opportunity for all of us that are involved. To take over such a historic program, be a part of that tradition there with the Raiders, is obviously exciting for all of us. We’re excited about the opportunity to put our stamp on the program.”
Q: How do you put your own stamp on the program, and still respect the past?
Allen: I think with every great program in the National Football League, I think you really have to respect the history and tradition within the organization. The Oakland Raiders. It’s one of the most storied franchises in all of sport, not just the NFL. We want to embrace those, embrace the past, and the history of the organization. But yet, we want to do it our way. Reggie and I are going to work together to do it the way we want to do it, and put the best team out on the field we can put out there.
You have to embrace the tradition of the Raiders and what Mr. Davis was able to build there. But at the same time, Reggie and I have to do it our way. We’re committed to doing that. Reggie’s done an outstanding job since he’s been there, of putting his own stamp on the organization. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with the players and putting my stamp on the team.”
Q: Had you ever met Al Davis?
Allen: I met him actually one time when I was at the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Austin, Texas, when I was working with Texas A&M. I was a graduate assistant with Texas A&M. He was out there. I was watching the defensive backs work out and he was standing right there coaching. That would’ve been early ‘90s.
Q: On growing up in the Dallas area:
Allen: I think growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the thing about growing up there, you really get a feel for what football’s all about. The tradition of Texas high-school football produces some of the best coaches in the world. I think high-school coaches in general, that’s where players really learn the fundamentals of playing the game. I was fortunate to grow up there and be a part of some of the best high-school coaching there is.
Q: Did you know early in life you wanted to coach?
Allen: Yeah. Yeah. I knew from very early on, that’s what I wanted to do. I think my earliest recollection of when I decided I wanted to be a coach was probably in junior high school. Like I said in my press conference when I was announced as head coach, I knew in junior high I wanted to be a junior high coach. In high school, I wanted to be a high school coach. When I played college ball, I thought, ‘Hey, I might want to try this college thing.’ And here I am in the National Football League. I didn’t set out for this to be the end goal, but I think as you go along and keep advancing within your career, I think everybody wants to be the best.
Q: Did you follow the Cowboys?
Allen: I did. The Cowboys were my team growing up. I had a little bit of a connection with the Atlanta Falcons because my dad played for the Falcons. I was actually born in Atlanta. I grew up in Hurst (Texas), but I was born in Atlanta. Dallas was my team growing up. We didn’t go to a lot of games. I was playing pee-wee football, and doing different things. My recollection is of Sundays where I would get up early in the morning, we’d probably go out and have some sort of pick-up game, basketball or football, or something out in the driveway or the street out front. Then we’d come in and watch the games about noon, maybe take a break at halftime and go out and play a little bit more. Then generally we’d come back in and get ready for church, watch most of the afternoon game before we had to go to church.
Q: On the Saints and the recent NFL discipline:
Allen: I think the Commissioner has really made it a point that our job as employees of the National Football League is to protect the shield, protect the integrity of the game. I think obviously the increased awareness about player safety, I think that’s of the utmost importance. I respect the investigation, what the league went through, and respect their findings. Really at the end of the day, I’m worrying about the Oakland Raiders. We’ve got an opportunity to have our team in for the very first time on April 2, and that’s really where my focus has been.
Q: On the changes in the CBA delaying his ability to see his players:
Allen: We get to report really two weeks earlier than anyone else (as a team with a first-year coach). We get the opportunity to have one extra mini-camp. I think after going through what we went through last year, I’ll take anything I can get. I’ll say this: It’s no tougher than it was last year, with absolutely no time. It’s a challenge. Obviously as coaches, we always want more time. These are the rules we’ve been given, so we’ll find ways to adjust, and find different methods of getting our point across in a shorter period of time.
Just like with anything, anytime anything new comes up, we’re going to go through this process. We’re going to go through this offseason program. The owners, players, the GMs, the coaches, we’re all going to monitor how this process goes, and then there’ll be things the players are going to want to adjust, there’ll be things the coaches would want to adjust, and there’ll be changes, I would expect, when you get into next offseason.
Q: Who are your mentors?
Allen: I’ve had an opportunity to work for some good people. Sean Payton is a person I really respect, someone I will listen to. Dan Reeves was someone I was fortunate enough, when I first came into the league, one of the first guys that I was able to work for, and so he’s obviously someone I’ve learned a whole lot from. When I was going through the whole process of hiring coaches, I spent some time on the phone with Jimmy Mora, who I worked for there in Atlanta. I’ve been pretty fortunate.
Q: Do you still have family in Hurst, Texas?
Allen: I do. My mom and dad still live there. My mom and dad, and my grandmother, they all live in the same house I grew up in.”
Q: On the Raiders playing the Cowboys in the preseason:
Allen: It’s been kind of a tradition, hasn’t it? Like Thanksgiving Day games.”
Q: Did you know Reggie McKenzie before this process?
Allen: Only a little bit, through seeing him at the combine. Enough to say hello to him.”
Q: On his reaction to interviewing with the Raiders:
Allen: It was really kind of an interesting process. I had an opportunity to interview for the head-coaching job at the Rams prior to that. Some of these things are strange because you don’t really expect them, you have no idea they’re coming. I just remember Foxy (John Fox) coming to me and saying, ‘I think the Raiders are going to want to talk to you.’ And then a couple days later he said they do want to talk to you. So, it’s obviously a flattering deal. (McKenzie) flew to Denver and we met at one of the hotels downtown, spent about 4-5 hours together, visited a little bit more at the Senior Bowl.”
Q: Did that impress you about Reggie, that he thought outside the box, after a lot of people thought he would hire a Green Bay guy?
Allen: What you find out about Reggie, he does let the process play out. He’s not going to be swayed in any way by public perception. He’s going to do what he thinks is right for himself, for the organization, and he’s not really going to look back.”
Q: On Darren McFadden, any updates?
Allen: There’s not really an update. He’s still kind of going through the rehabilitation process. He’s been back in Oakland working out. We expect him to fully be able to go through the offseason program and ready to roll.
Q: Do you feel like you have to figure out what you have in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore?
Allen: I need to figure out exactly what we have on the whole team. I don’t think you ever really truly know until you get out on the field and get an opportunity to work with them. I’m excited about a lot of the pieces to the puzzle that we have. But I don’t think you fully know what you have until you get on the field with them. That’s why I’m really looking forward to this mini-camp starting on April 17.
Q: What kind of culture has Reggie McKenzie brought to your organization?
Allen: I think what people are really finding out about Reggie is that he is a true personnel man. He understands personnel, he understands how to deal with players, and I think he’s done a great job under the circumstances, trying to acquire talent and to try to find fits for our organization.
Q: Do you have a feel for his philosophy on building, how he’s going to mesh the draft and the pro areas to get you players?
Allen: Yeah. I think, obviously, we both feel the best way to build the program is to build through the draft, develop young players. That’s how you sustained continued success in this league. And that’s really what our philosophy’s going to be, to really try to acquire and develop young talent.”
Q: On McKenzie’s personality
Allen: Well, he’s not going to die of stress, it doesn’t look like to me. He’s a pretty laid-back guy. He doesn’t allow a lot of things to bother him. He’s got his own thoughts and ideas about the way he wants to do things. He’s really not going to be swayed by a lot of public perception.”
Q: His old boss in Green Bay, Ted Thompson, also is an even-tempered personality. Do you think that’s a good quality?
Allen: Absolutely, because I think you really have to make tough decisions at times and when you let emotions get in the way too much, sometimes those decisions get clouded a little bit. I think being even-keel is a good thing.
Q: On cornerback Pat Lee:
Allen: I think he provides a lot of depth at the corner position. He’s kind of been a backup, special-teams-type player there in Green Bay, and I’m looking forward to getting him in and giving him an opportunity to compete. We’ll see where he’s at.
Q: On the April schedule:
Allen: April 2, we get the players in for the offseason program. April 17 is our first day of mini-camp.”
Q: On the fit between a GM and head coach, how important that is in Green Bay, and whether he sensed that in Oakland:
Allen: Yes, from the very beginning. I think what happens is, when you look at Reggie and I, both of us have a lot of the same core values of trust, honesty and integrity. We’re both family people. So, I think personally we have a lot of things in common. Personally, we have a lot of things in common. Then, professionally, both of us believe in developing and teaching young players. We don’t always agree on every single thing. I don’t think that’s healthy within an organization that you agree on every single thing. But I think we respect each other’s opinion, and we both of us know that we both have the best interest of the club at heart.”
Q: New regimes always use the phrase changing the culture; how do you go about doing that?
Allen: It’s a challenge anytime you go into a new situation. At the end of the day I think what you need to do is you have to have your set of values that you believe in, the things that you believe in strongly, and you’ve got to preach that message every day. Habits are created, and they’re created through repetition. That’s really what you have to do. You’ve got to continue to preach the same message day-in and day-out and you’ve got to live it.
Q: On young players on the roster:
Allen: We’ve got some young players on our team that I’m excited about. I’m excited about the receiving corps. I’m excited about Tyvon Branch at the safety position. I’m excited about the opportunity to get to work with Rolando McClain as a middle linebacker. There’s a reason why he was drafted so high. I think Darren McFadden is someone I’m excited about, still a developing player. When you look at our team, we really have some young talent that has a chance to grow. How you can sustain success in this league is to develop young players. That’s critical.
Q: On his reaction to Peyton Manning signing with Denver:
Allen: I was excited for them. They get a chance to get one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the National Football League, but at the same time I was thinking, ‘Could it get any tougher for us at the Oakland Raiders?’ Your first job, you’re taking on a new challenge and all of the sudden you’ve got to go face one of the best that’s ever played twice a year. And then after you play him twice a year, you’re going to go out and play Philip Rivers twice a year, one of the best in the league. It’s a tough proposition but we’re excited about the challenge.
Q: On whether the fullback is being phased out of the NFL:
Allen: I don’t think so. I think when you look at our fullback, what I think is, the traditional fullback might not be the same guy as you go forward into the National Football League. Marcel Reece is a converted wide receiver playing fullback. He’s an athletic type of guy. You might see a little more of that.”
Q: What’s more important, nickel corner or third linebacker?
Allen: I think the nickel corner with the way the league is going right now. The nickel corner is a starter in this league. He’s a starter.
Q: On the biggest trend in offense these days:
Allen: I think the no-huddle, quick-tempo, quick substitutions, that’s probably been the biggest change since I first came into the league.”
Q: On the Broncos:
Allen: I have mixed emotions. I have a lot of friends on that staff. At the same time, they’re in your division and it’s one of your biggest rivalries, you’d rather not see them get one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. We’re really looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s obviously a big challenge for us. It’ll be a big challenge for our defense and a big challenge for our offense, because when you play teams that have that type of capability on offense, your offense has to be able to keep the opponents off the field, and be able to put up points themselves. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I think, really when you look at our division, we’ve gone to a division that has some of the best quarterback play in all of football.
Q: On some of the challenges with walking into a place where it’s been done one way for so long:
Allen: I think the biggest challenge is that because the leadership has been the way it’s been done for so long, people are used to doing things one way. I think the biggest challenge is just getting people within the organization to open up the thought process to doing things another way. There are different ways to do things in this league. I think everyone within the organization has been open and receptive to conforming to the way Reggie and I are trying to do things.”
Q: Have you figured out the identity of the organization now?
Allen: Yeah. Our deal is, we want to foster an organization that’s based on trust, honesty, integrity, doing the right things, doing it the right way. Those are things that both Reggie and I believe in. That’s the way we’re going to run that organization. We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to do things in a first-class manner. We’re going to build a team that’s going to be tough, smart, disciplined. Just like I talked about doing the right things within the organization, that’s the way we’re going to do it as a team.”
Q: On the mystique of the Raiders:
Allen: That’s what the Oakland Raiders are all about. But I do think there’s a perception of tough, nasty, dirty. We want to be tough, we want to be physical, we want to do it the right way.”
Q: You clearly know how to build a defense. Offensively, what are your philosophies?
Allen: Offensively, first of all, to be successful, you’ve got to be able to run the football. We’re going to be able to do that. We’ve got a scheme in place that’s going to allow us to run the football. I think we’ve got a situation there at running back that’s going to allow us to run consistently on offense. And then you have to be explosive in the passing game. When you look at our quarterback, our wide-receiver situation, I think we obviously have the ability to be explosive in the passing game. I think those are the two biggest factors to be consistent offensively.
I don’t know if it’s bucking the trend in the league. I think when you say you have to be able to run the football, everybody kind of pictures three yards and a cloud of dust. I don’t think that’s what it’s all about. I think you have to be able to run the football on a consistent basis so you make the defense have to play two different things. If they’re sitting back there and playing the pass all day, it makes it hard to throw the football. I think our ability to be able to run the ball consistently opens up the passing game.
Q: On his comfort level coaching in the AFC West:
Allen: Yeah, I’ve got a little familiarity with the people we’re going to be playing. That’s a positive. Obviously they have a familiarity with me and what I believe in, what we’re going to try to accomplish. I think it’s an exciting challenge.
Q: Defensively, what are your assets?
Allen: Our strongest area, I think defensively, is we’re going to be good up front. I think that’s been a key asset to the team over the last couple years. We’re big, we’re physical up front. And then I think we’ve got team speed all over the field. I think where we need to get is we have to be able to develop some of the young players, some of the young talent. You look at DeMarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa and some of the draft choices last year that we’ve got to develop. Rolando McClain is one of those guys we’ve got to develop. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to work with those guys. We do have talent. We’ve got to bring them along.
Q: On the draft choices awarded Monday:
Allen: We’re excited about getting three compensatory picks. It gives us a little bit more to do on draft day. I think what we’re going to have to do a great job of is evaluating fit, and how guys fit into what we’re going to try to do offensively and defensively so we can get that value pick in some of those later rounds. We knew the situation going in, that we were going to have to take some tough hits. Now that we have some compensatory picks, we’ve got a chance to find us a player earlier in the draft, than having to wait around.
Q: On free agency:
Allen: Here’s the first thing: There’s good players out there. They really form most of your team. We weren’t able to go out there and make the big splash, the big name, through free agency. We won’t be able to go out and make the big splash, the big name through the draft, because we don’t have a first- or second-round draft choice. What we’ve got to be able to do, we have to find those value picks that fit what we want to do, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, that allow us to do that. Then, we’ve got to develop of them as coaches.
Q: On what Sean Payton is going through right now:
Allen: Well, I think first of all, that’s an unfortunate situation. I feel extremely bad for everybody’s that’s been involved in the situation. But I do think that as the Commissioner stated the other day that it’s our job as employees, especially us as head coaches, to protect the shield, protect the integrity of the game. Player safety is of the utmost importance, and I think that’s something we’ve got to take very seriously.”
Q: On whether he’s reached out to Sean Payton:
Allen: Yeah I’ve reached out to Sean. I’ve sent him a text and told him how badly I feel for him and this whole situation.”
Q: On the investigation:
Allen: I think the Commissioner, the league, they did a thorough investigation of the situation there, and I really respect the findings of the league. Really what I’m focused on is moving forward with the Oakland Raiders. We get an opportunity to meet with our team on April 2 for the very first time, and I’m looking forward to that opportunity and getting a chance to work with those guys.
Q: On Pete Carmichael as a candidate:
Allen: I think Pete Carmichael’s an outstanding coach. I think he had a couple opportunities with head-coaching jobs this year, and I think he’s an outstanding candidate as a head coach.
Q: On whether the Raiders will play a 4-3 or 3-4:
Allen: No, we haven’t decided any of that yet. We’re still going through the process of acquiring talent, looking into who we’re going to have on the team next year. Once we get through the draft, we’ll have a better feel what we want to do there.
Q: On inheriting a team on the doorstep of the playoffs last year:
Allen: That’s one of the things we’re excited about. This team wasn’t far away when I got here. We’re excited about trying to build on that and develop this team into a playoff-caliber team. Obviously, we took a couple hits because of the cap situation, but we’re looking forward to trying to develop the team, and the players.”
Q: On whether people raise their eyebrows, due to his age, when he tells them he’s an NFL head coach:
Allen: They probably do. I don’t notice it a whole lot. Listen, I can’t apologize for being young, you know what I mean? It is what it is. I put a lot of time and effort into preparing for this and I’m ready for the challenge.”