ALAMEDA – The NFL is a performance-based business. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen referenced that fact several times this season when discussing promotions, demotions and snap counts.
Allen understands the logic works for players and coaches alike. Win and take credit, lose and shoulder blame.
After three straight losses, a 4-9 record and bleak prospects heading into a AFC West tour to finish the year, Allen understands that heat’s coming right at him.
Allen isn’t focused on it. Job security, he insists, doesn’t drive him.
With two full years remaining on a four-year deal, Allen hasn’t been given any assurance that he’ll be back next year. Allen isn’t actively looking for it.
“Listen, that’s not what my job is,” Allen said Monday in a press conference. “My job is to try to get this team better, get this team ready to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m not going to talk about speculation or anything like that. I’m going to worry about winning a football game this week.”
The Raiders would have to win a few more games for Allen to avoid notoriety. And, if history holds, Allen’s fate might be in the tealeaves.
At 8-21, Allen already has more losses over his first two seasons than any Raiders coach brought back for a third year. Tom Cable was 5-19 in one-plus seasons as coach – he earned an interim title after Lane Kiffin was fired in 2008 – and was retained for a third season. Jon Gruden was 16-16 over two seasons and was brought back.
Norv Turner lost 23 games over his first two seasons and he was fired as a result.
Allen’s coaching record isn’t good, but owner Mark Davis has asked for progress. He understands how the team has worked out of salary-cap trouble and that general manger Reggie McKenzie’s plan was long-term.
Still, piling losses makes progress hard to see. Allen believes a gray area exists that proves the team has improved under his watch.
“Obviously the record doesn't say so,” Allen said. “We all recognize that at the end of the day this is a production business. We understand that you are what your record says you are. But I also know there's a lot of areas where this football team has improved.
“We've got to continue to improve in those areas and other areas so that we're able to win football games and not come away and be disappointed.”
The Raiders have been competitive at several points this season, but they seem to be getting worse. They were awful defensively against the New York Jets, and their current roster depth suggests similar results against the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos.
[REWIND: Defense regresses in bad loss to Jets]
These last three games could offer a progress report about where the Raiders are within the AFC West.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to measure ourselves against the teams that are in our division, the teams that if we aspire to be a playoff team we have to be able to beat,” Allen said. “I look for the players to rise up to the challenge and try to win these football games. That's what we're trying to do. And our guys will respond. They'll come back.”
Raiders players insist they’ll continue to fight for wins and for their head coach.
“Love him, man. I love the staff,” running back Rashad Jennings said. “I love everything that he’s been leading us. He’s a true leader. He has a high expectation. That’s exactly what you want from a leader. He’s been putting us in good situations to win every single game. That’s all you can ask for from a coach. It always comes down to the players executing, and there’s a lot of accountability in this locker room. He’s definitely the man for the job, and we follow his lead.”
Questions about Allen’s job security will continue this week, with calls for his dismissal gaining volume with each loss. Players insists that, like their beleaguered head coach, they can tune it out and focus on football.
“You can't worry about what's going on upstairs,” fullback Marcel Reece said. “You have to let the business side take care of the business side, and you have to go out and produce and pray that you're going to be okay that you stay around here."
Reece knows that wins, especially one Sunday against Kansas City, will cool hot seats and restore order to what he considers a period of progress.
“You have to keep the team together keep the team playing at a high level. If you win these games, you never know what going to happen,” he said. “I put trust in the fact that we have the best owner in the business. The Davis family has always had our best interest at heart. I put all my trust in them to see what they do.”