ALAMEDA -- Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has made his case for progress several times over. Continuity, he obviously believes, will be key to turning this franchise around. Allen’s job title provides ample to stump for himself, his plan and his staff. He’s done so when prompted.
On Thursday afternoon, his top assistants finally chimed in. Both defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and offensive coordinator Greg Olson discussed the difficulties of guiding a roster low on payroll and talent. They understood this time would be difficult, but believe patience and hard workwill pay off in the long run.
It’s a sales pitch backed by a whole lot of truth, and it shows this staff is in survival mode. Several assistants -- including Tarver -- have expiring contracts. Several players do too, a byproduct of Reggie McKenzie’s quest to alleviate salary-cap troubles.
“The hand that the Oakland Raiders were handed when we stepped into this building was one where we couldn’t make a lot of moves,” Tarver said. “The moves that were made by this organization had to be made. And as you look at the progress and the process, you knew through this little window that there were going to be some dramatic ups and downs — not having an established quarterback, having 10 new starters on defense, et cetera — whatever the case may be.”
That, Olson and Tarver believe, played a huge role in the Raiders struggles this season. The team was competitive early on, but struggled late as injuries wore on an already razor-thin depth chart.
“As much as we all want to win right away -- and we all want instant results -- when we started the season we knew that we were a little bit challenged here now as a football team when you look at it,” Olson said. “I had a chance a year ago to be in Jacksonville and see that team’s personnel and then be here with the Raiders and say that we do have some challenges here now to overcome.”
Part of the Raiders struggles has been inconsistency at quarterback. Terrelle Pryor will make his ninth start on Sunday against Denver and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin made six more after the Matt Flynn experiment fell flat on its face.
Part of it has been a defense without secondary depth and little pass-rushing talent.
Allen’s assistants expected rough patches throughout the season. So did outsiders, but those early opinions were quashed by a bout of competitiveness that has been lost. All of these steps are part of a long road out of the basement.
Tarver wants us all, likely including decision makers he doesn’t have much access to, to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“If you don’t have a process and you don’t stick with something, you maybe get one little year blip (up), and then we’ll go right back down,” Tarver said. “We’re finally right here, with the ability to go wherever we want to. Take the Denver game. See who plays well. After that, we can go anywhere we want to. Let’s go up from here because now we can. Before that point, there were going to be ups and downs. That’s how I would summarize it. You knew because there were too many unknowns, but a lot of those unknowns have become knowns. And that’s a good thing.”
The Raiders have found some foundational pieces, and they can afford to pay them as such. Players generally like this staff, especially the assistants.
Tarver and Olson believe progress has been made, and are hoping to see it through.
"The teams that win," Tarver said, "have a process from building up personnel and working forward."