OAKLAND -- Dennis Allen talked, stood and looked like a man who knows his fate, and believes it to be an agreeable one.
“I do, I expect to be back,” the Oakland coach said as he stood in the shards of this just-expired season, with a 34-14 never-in-the-game loss to Denver as the freshest backdrop. “I truly believe that I deserve the opportunity to be back. We got a chance to go through the deconstruction, and I want to a chance to be here for the rebuilding.”
This seems, even in the face of the superficial evidence, to be a fair assessment. The Raiders are exactly as we described them two years ago – an expansion team with history – and most expansion teams have the advantage of not having to blow up the old stuff before the building has to begin.
But decisions like coach extermination are not made in a vacuum, unless that vacuum happens to be an owner’s head – and yes, you know there are owners who are sealed for their own protection. Owners can be impatient, or impetuous, or too concerned with public opinion, or utterly tone-deaf to it. Owners are the wild card, and guessing how they roll is pretty much like licking an old hand grenade. You can be boom’d to smithereens (which in the NFL is a suburb of special teams coach) in the least opportune moment.
Sunday’s game did not help Allen, to be sure. The Raiders were overwhelmed swiftly and surely, so much so that Peyton Manning (25 of 28, 266, four scores) set a league record for passing yards in a season in the first half en route to a 31-0 lead. He did not see the field in the second half, and quarterbacks don’t typically get pulled at halftime for being too good.
Of course, his former boss, John Fox, may have seen an opportunity to go easy on his old mentee, and sent out Brock Osweiler to guide the Broncos to their final field goal. But that’s more conspiratorial than we have the desire to be today. The Raiders lost by 20 to a preposterously superior team, and overthinking is worse than underthinking on such an occasion.
In any event, there was no real opportunity for Allen to save himself if his job was indeed hanging on a good showing. More likely, Don Mark Davis, the man who controls Allen’s fate, had made up his mind before Sunday, and the meetings with Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie coming up this week are more likely to be pro forma than anti-coach.
This news will dismay Raider fans who think every season holds the possibility of a quick fix. Few do, of course, and the more advanced the rot, the more work has to be done in restoration.
And that is Allen’s best hope – that Davis understands just how much decay had set in in the final years of his father’s reign, and that the organization had to be torn down to the studs to begin anew.
Allen’s second-best hope? That Davis, having asked all the smart football people he knew who should lead his organization out of its barrel-roll and gotten the answers “Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen,” hasn’t the nerve to go back to them and ask, “Okay, who are your third- and fourth-best ideas?”
Nobody can say with any certainty that Allen is a good coach, as there are no results to back that claim. Nobody can say he is terrible, either, because there is truth in his explanation/excuse/alibi.
The Raiders are the worst team in football over the last 11 seasons (53-123, .301), so it isn’t like Allen invented malaise.
But everyone can agree that 2014 is the year when four wins will be insufficient, and the excuse of deconstruction will no longer be valid. In short, as Charles Woodson said on his way out the door, “This is a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ league. This is a league of no patience.”
So Dennis Allen probably does beat the reaper on You’re Fired Monday. He looked like he already knew that he would not be a casualty – or at least thought he still had enough of the owner’s faith for one more go-round with The Team That Time Forgot.
But like so many other things this season, he could be wrong on this.