Raiders coach Dennis Allen survived the so-called Black Monday, the day NFL teams routinely jettison head coaches and general managers. Yet, as expected, someone had to pay for the team’s 4-12 season with their jobs.
“I said this from the very beginning, I’m not in this for a one-year deal,” Allen said. “I’m in this long-term. I’m in this to build this thing the right way. And I’m excited about looking forward to the future and where this organization is going to go.”
As it turned out, the future won’t include offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, offensive line coach Frank Pollack, special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. Allen fired those four Monday morning.
Allen said he doesn’t “anticipate” firing any other coaches. There was plenty of speculation on whether defensive coordinator Jason Tarver would survive a season in which the Raiders allowed 443 points, more than last season and the third-most per game in franchise history.
The fact the Raiders held the Chiefs, Panthers and Chargers to an average of 13.7 the final three games, including a shutout of the Chiefs, no doubt helped Tarver’s cause.
“I was pleased with where Jason was,” Allen said. “J.T. does a good job for us. He’s a very smart football coach. He, like all of us, he’s the first time in that position, and so we all go through a learning curve in that position and that’s something we’ve looked at throughout this organization, guys that are the first time doing that particular job, and we’ll grow from it.”
For now, it’s on to 2013, without dwelling too much on the season that ended Sunday the same way it started, with a loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders tied for the third-worst record in the league, with three of their victories coming over the 2-14 Chiefs and Jaguars. They lost 11 games or more for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
Through it all, Allen sees a time when the Raiders do more than muddle along and experience things greater than moral victories and emptiness at season’s end.
“Listen, at the end the day, you are who you are,” Allen said in owning the fact the Raiders finished 4-12. “You are what your record says you are. Do I think we can play better and have enough talent on this team to be better than we were? Yeah. We feel short in that area.
“But that’s the past. I’m looking toward the future. We’re looking to build this team the right way. We’re going to get the right players, we’re going to get the right coaches and we’re going to build this organization the way it’s supposed to be done and we’re going to get back to the glory days of the Oakland Raiders.”
To that end, Allen said, he and general manager Reggie McKenzie met several times within the past few weeks in an effort to identify which of their prospective free agents they are interested in re-signing.
“We’ve identified those guys that we’re trying to get back and we’re in the process,” Allen said. “How long that process takes, at the end of the day Reggie will handle that part of it. But we’ve met a lot over the last few weeks and where we’re going as an organization and what we’re looking to do. We’ve got a clear plan of what we’re trying to get done.”
It’s a safe bet that McKenzie will target players such as linebacker Philip Wheeler, running back Mike Goodson and defensive end Matt Shaughnessy in an attempt to get them back in the mix before they are eligible for unrestricted free agency in March.
Even then, there’s still plenty of work to do, countless positions to be filled, problem areas to be fixed and moves that need to be made between now and the start of next season.
The foundation has been laid, though, Allen said.
“Our guys really understand what they’re going to be accountable for and the things we’re looking for in a football team and the things we’re looking for in players,” Allen said. “They also understand that we have to develop that leadership in the locker room that will allow us to sustain success over a long period of time.
“This is a players game. Players make plays and the best teams are able at some point in time to hand the keys to the car over to the players and they’re able to run the program the way it needs to be run. We’re not at that point yet but we’re developing that every day.”
— Allen declined to go into detail on how he plans on proceeding with displaced middle linebacker Rolando McClain.
Therefore, we’ll lay it out for you.
The Raiders kept McClain on the roster the final three games after he returned from a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team for one reason: in the hope that they can peddle him via trade and get a draft pick or two in return.
There’s almost no conceivable way that the Raiders bring back McClain next season, not after the way he behaved, not after he got replaced by rookie Miles Burris in the nickel package and certainly not at the salary he is slated to receive.
Of course, the other teams are aware of that, too, so they likely won’t offer much, if anything, for McClain. If they have any interest, they simply can wait until the Raiders release McClain.
It’s worth a shot, though.
— Quarterback Carson Palmer missed the regular-season finale with broken ribs and a bruised lung. Allen said he expects Palmer to make a full recovery and be the Raiders quarterback next season.
“To my knowledge, there’s no long-term implications,” Allen said. “To my knowledge, he’s going to make a full recovery and be fine.”
Palmer suffered his injury against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 23 and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. He is slated to earn $13 million in base salary next season.
The Raiders would take a massive hit against the salary cap if they opted to trade or release Palmer. Also, they don’t have another proven option on their roster.
— Running back Darren McFadden averaged 5.2 yards rushing in 2010 and 5.4 last season, when Hue Jackson called the plays. This season, that figure dipped to 3.3.
That played a part in Allen’s decision to fire Knapp and Pollack. It doesn’t sound as if the Raiders have any plans to part ways with McFadden, though.
“I like Darren,” Allen said. “He’s a good running back, he’s an explosive player and I’m hoping that he can continue to produce in the future.”
McFadden has one year remaining on his rookie contract.
— Allen said he considered Al Saunders for the offensive coordinator position before he hired Knapp last offseason. Saunders is back in the mix now.
“We’re going to look at all the possible options,” Allen said.
Allen also made it clear that he isn’t looking for a coach that runs a specific system.
“I believe the zone scheme running scheme is a productive running scheme,” Allen said. “Obviously we didn’t have the success that we needed to have and there were a lot of factors that contributed into that. I’m not tied to a specific system. I’m tied to trying to find out what our players can do really well and try to put them in those positions to give them a chance to have success. I’m looking for production and execution, and that’s where we have to be better.
Allen added that he is fully aware of the success McFadden enjoyed under Jackson.
“There were some good things that were done the year prior as far as what they did, the execution,” Allen said. “What I want to do is get the right guy for the job. I’m not tied into the system but I want to make sure that we’re able to be a successful, productive offense. We have to have some rhythm and some explosiveness in our offense.”
— The Raiders set league records for penalties (163) and penalty yards (1,358) in 2011. Therefore, there was bound to be improvement this season in that regard.
Sure enough, the Raiders reduced their penalties by one-third and finished with 108 for 939 yards. Both figures were the eighth-highest in the league.
So, there’s still work to be done in that area, as well. Call it progress, at least by comparison.
— Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor watched the tape from his starting debut and came away impressed by some things, bothered by others.
Seems fair, given he was thrust into a tough situation after spending most of his first two seasons on the bench as the No. 3 quarterback and not receiving many reps with the first-team offense.
“I haven’t had a lot of reps with the guys, so it’s tough to be on (the same) page,” Pryor said. “But, just for going out and having fun and trying to get some plays, draw ‘em up and make them work, I thought we did a decent job.”
Agreed. I watched the tape last night and felt as if Pryor acquitted himself well, all things considered.
Sure, he still needs work on his accuracy, timing and touch, but he did a nice job commanding the huddle, avoiding penalties and sacks and keeping alive plays with his feet.
If nothing else, he showed enough to warrant a longer look next season.
“Definitely it’s something to build off of. I wish we could have won, obviously, but it’s something to build off of,” Pryor said. “I’m very excited that I started. I can go home and can feel like somehow hold my head up high that I accomplished one of my goals of starting at least one game and lead the guys like I know how to do.”
Pryor said he intends to work on things such as his touch and completing passes in the face of pressure. He is hopeful that his teammates will be just as committed.
“When the (coordinator) gets in here, I’m going to be in here and I want to know exactly, I want the playbook, I want to start getting on it,” Pryor said. “Now we leaders that are going to step up and say, ‘Alright, you guys get on our back, and I’m going to lead.’ That’s what we need from guys. We’re going to have that starting in February. I hope guys are accountable, we can hold guys accountable to be here and get some good work in here in February, when they open the doors.”
With that, we close the doors on the 2012 season.
— Join me tomorrow as we ring in the new year with a Raiders live chat at noon PDT.
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