By Steve Corkran
Sunday, December 29th, 2013 at 8:21 pm in Oakland Raiders.
While the three other teams in the AFC West prepare for the playoffs, the Raiders head into the offseason with a sea of uncertainty for the 11th straight season.
The Raiders concluded their season with a 34-14 loss to the Denver Broncos in a game that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the score might indicate. They finished 4-12 for the second straight season under the leadership of coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Yet, Allen is confident and almost defiant that he’ll be allowed back for a third season.
“Yeah, I do,” Allen said, when asked if he exects to be coaching the Raiders in 2014. “I expect to be back and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to come back. But those are decisions that somebody else is going to make… But, yeah, I expect to be back.”
In fact, Allen already is looking into the future, salivating at the prospect of the Raiders having north of $60 million in salary-cap room and a full complement of draft picks.
“Absolutely. And like I’ve said before … Listen, it’s just the cards that we have to play with … This will be the first offseason where we’ve got some money that we can go out and try to acquire some free agents, to be able to sign some free agents on our football team that we’d like to keep here, and we’ll have a complement of draft choices to go out and begin to build this football team.
“It’s been a tough couple of years. It’s been a tough couple of years on everybody–been a tough couple of years on you guys, been a tough couple years on the fans, it’s been a tough couple of years with everybody within the organization. It’s something that needed to be done and we’re excited about the future and moving forward.”
Allen said he intends to meet with Davis and McKenzie in the coming days. At that time, they will talk about how to proceed and make sure they’re on the game page.
Allen does not seem at all concerned about being told that he isn’t in the Raiders’ plans moving forward.
“That’s a decision that’s made over my head,” Allen said. “I fully expect to be back. I fully believe that I deserve the opportunity to come back here and get a chance to, as we’ve said, go through the deconstruction phase … I want to be part of the rebuilding phase.”
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is among those in support of Allen and his coaching staff.
“I like coach Allen,” Pryor said. “Personally, I love coach Allen. He’s a great leader. He’s a great leader. Every single day, the thing I liked about him, he didn’t change. When we started the losing streak, he didn’t change one bit. He still talked to us the same. A lot of guys tend to crack under pressure.
“Coach Allen handled himself phenomenally, and we look at that type of stuff. He did a phenomenal job. I have a lot of respect for coach Allen and I know this team and my teammates do as well.”
– Linebacker Kevin Burnett suffered a concussion, cornerback Taiwan Jones tweaked an ankle and running back Rashad Jennings received a stinger Sunday. None of those injuries is expected to cost the players any practice time during the offseason, assuming they remain with the Raiders.
– Defensive end Lamarr Houston said he wants to re-sign with the Raiders this offseason. However, he said that he isn’t sure the Raiders’ desire is as intense.
“Who knows?” Houston said. “I believe that Dennis Allen and the Raiders might be looking to move on and have me go to another team or move on and find something more what they want for their system and their scheme. Who knows? It’s a rough business and nothing’s guaranteed and everything changes from day to day.”
What’s known is that the Raiders and Houston’s agent engaged in contract talks this season as a means of gauging what it would take to get a deal done.
As we reported earlier this season, the Raiders and Houston’s representation aren’t close on the parameters for a deal, with Houston’s side wanting Houston paid as a top-tier defensive end. McKenzie isn’t prepared to go that high, at least for now.
Salary-cap space isn’t an issue, given the Raiders have more cap room than any other team. And it’s unlikely that the Raiders would use the franchise tag on Houston because of a prohibitive figure of more than $12 million for a defensive end.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that Houston conceded he might have played his final game in a Raiders uniform Sunday.
“My understanding, I believe that they were talking me up and things like that, but to a certain standpoint, I believe, me and the Raiders, I’ve had good years and appreciate this organization,” Houston said. “I love this organization, but as far as what some of the coaches want, I’m not sure. That’s out of my control I play the best I can and do everything I can to contribute.”
– Wide receiver Jacoby Ford was a healthy scratch Sunday. That portends the Raiders moving forward without Ford next season and therefore no point in playing Ford one more time.
Yet, that doesn’t explain why the Raiders used running back Darren McFadden on Sunday. Either way, McFadden rushed seven times for 6 yards in what likely was his final game with the team that selected him No. 4 in the 2008 NFL draft.
– The Raiders earned the No. 5 pick in the 2014 NFL draft based on their 4-12 finish, but not until a tiebreaker among five teams that had that record.
The Jaguars emerged with the No. 3 pick because their .504 won-loss percentage was the worst among the five 4-12 teams. The NFL figures that a team that goes 4-12 against the worst schedule must be the worst team overall. The Raiders .524 strength of schedule was third among the five teams.
The Raiders held the third in the 2013 draft, though they traded it to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 12 and a second-rounder that the Raiders parlayed into cornerback D.J. Hayden and offensive tackle Menelik Watson.
– Pryor broke Rich Gannon’s Raiders record for most yards rushing by a quarterback. He rushed for 49 yards Sunday, giving him 576 for the season.