Dennis Allen’s croaking as Oakland Raider coach was a long time coming. In fact, it had been in motion for 980 days.
The day he took the job.
Being 8-28 gets you fired. Being 0-4 in your do-or-die year gets you fired. Losing the locker room gets you fired, losing the corporate side gets you fired, a lot of things get you fired.
[RELATED: Raiders fire Dennis Allen]
But what got Dennis Allen fired was Dennis Allen being hired. You see, the Oakland Raiders slaughter coaching careers. They also slaughter a lot of playing careers, but coaches . . . let’s just say it. The head coach’s is death’s waiting room.
Since Jon Gruden was traded after one too many jousts with Al Davis, the list is long and festooned with failure. Only one former Raider coach ever got another pro head coaching job, Norv Turner in San Diego. Only two got college jobs, Bill Callahan and Lane Kiffin, and both bombed out there as well. And only one, Tom Cable, got to coach longer than Allen – 44 games, eight more than Allen when he got the goat.
In other words, Allen got his shot, but he was doomed to fail because the Raiders reek of failure in every way. Can’t move, can’t stay. Can’t bring in veterans and win, can’t build a winner around young players. Can’t invoke modernization, can’t rely on an increasingly distant glorious past.
They are, put simply, the St. Louis Browns of football.
In case you forgot the St. Louis Browns, or your parents didn’t have the gumption to create you decades earlier, they were what the Baltimore Orioles are now. They lasted 53 years and won one pennant. They had 11 winning seasons, three of those in war years when other teams were losing talent to the armed services. They were spectacularly awful for roughly ever, and what made it worse for them is that they had a direct competitor in the dramatically more successful Cardinals.
The Raiders, for their part, have had three winning seasons in their 20 years back in Oakland since 1995. They long ago became a place old players go to get one last payday, and a starting point for young players hoping to break into the NFL one day. Their default position is to play hard until it becomes clear that that isn’t working, and then try not to get hurt. Their predecessors bailed out early, and the current team has bailed out too.
The coaches don’t matter because there hasn’t been one to last more than those 44 games since Gruden, or frankly, before him, either.
There have only been two general managers – one, Al Davis, had only one burst of hands-off creativity (Gruden) and desperate lurches to and fro otherwise, and the other, Reggie McKenzie, had to clean up the final mountains of the Davis mess, and may well be fired before that job is done, either.
There isn’t enough talent, or creativity, or money, or hope of an architectural breakthrough, to make a rebuild seem like a real thing. They are bereft of fantasies, let alone realistic hopes. Their hires are based not on belief that there will be a brighter day in Oakland, but a brighter day AFTER Oakland. And their owner is mostly devoted to looking for either a new place to play or a new rich guy to whom to sell the team.
And that’s how you get to be the St. Louis Browns.
Allen wasn’t that inspirational demon. He was a technocrat, a lot like Josh McDaniels in Denver, who failed miserably after coming highly regarded from the Bill Belichick coaching shrub. And the Raiders need a genius, much as Al Davis himself was in the ‘60s. A mad, impetuous, galvanizing figure who WANTS Oakland to thrive rather than to be a transfer point.
Because that’s what it will take to save this dispirited, gormless mess. Pure, crystalline follow-me-boys-we’ll-take-the-hill-and-more-besides inspiration. And not just old faces for the new place either, because nobody goes back to the old place after thriving the first time. Success doesn’t transfer.
Thus, Jon Gruden isn’t the answer, and neither is Jim Harbaugh. It has to be someone or something off the grid, a dervish who will reinvent the way football organizations do their business, and a despot who will end the culture of we’re-doomed-before-we-start-so-let’s-just-get-to-Christmas mentality that permeates every corner of this decrepit edifice. A man (or, what the hell, woman) who is hell-bent on making Oakland a football destination the way Gruden did when his built-in foil was The Al himself.
Dennis Allen lost the job because he took the job, and was never the inspiration for anything other than barber-shop musings on when he would be fired. There will be no speeches on his behalf, for he knew the job was a nightmare when he took it. He took it because he thought he should, and because he thought he might be the savior.
But this job is more than believing you can fix it. It is KNOWING it, and doing every hysterical, monomaniacal selling job needed to change this franchise’s national reputation as the last place on Earth.
Because it is. Not Oakland. The Oakland Raiders. The new and ongoing St. Louis Browns.