The Oakland Raiders have a new coach, Allen Dennis. Or wait, I think it is Dennis Allen. Yeah, that sounds more like it. Easy mistake though right? A guy no one has ever heard of with two first names? How was I supposed to remember which was actually his last name?
I was obviously kidding with that first paragraph. Just my attempt to make light of the fact that the Raiders new general manager, Reggie McKenzie, has hired a guy no one has heard of to be the next Raiders head coach. Unfortunately, that is the part of the story that is getting the most play. The "who is Dennis Allen?" game will be in full force over the next few days as football commentators look for anything to talk about to avoid two straight weeks of Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady talk. Lord knows the pro bowl isn't going to fill that void.
That, however, is the wrong question to be asking. I care less about who Dennis Allen is and more about why Dennis Allen was hired. The tendency of pundits is to focus on the work history of a new coaching hire. This makes sense, a job history tells a lot about a candidate. It does not, however, come anywhere near telling the whole story. In this case, Allen's coaching career is, well, lackluster. His highest coaching position was defensive coordinator, a post he held for one season before being hired as Raiders head coach. Therefore, I have to think that McKenzie was impressed by something intangible, something that cannot be seen on a resume.
I have not had any personal conversations with Reggie McKenzie (shocking right?), so I really do not know for sure why he chose Allen as the next Raiders head coach. I do, however, have my theories based on reading articles and listening to interviews.
One of the qualities that I have consistently heard attached to Allen's name is discipline. Former NFL scout Dave Razzano was on 95.7 The Game this morning to discuss the hiring of Dennis Allen. When asked about it, Razzano commented that he believed one of the reasons the Bronco's defense improved so much the past year was because of the discipline instilled in them by Allen. Rozzano went on to say that he believed this discipline would be a big difference maker in Oakland for two reasons. First of all, the Raiders defense is talented, but undisciplined. One of the major faults on the Raiders defense was the tendency to give up big plays, often due to undisciplined play in the front seven. Secondly, Rozzano hypothesized that McKenzie believes Allen could be the man to finally bring the penalty woes in Oakland to an end.
ESPN blogger Bill Williamson made an excellent point in his post about the hiring of Allen. In it, Williamson notes that the Raiders are a team that has been plagued with controversy. Each of the past three head coaches, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson, have all brought un-necessary drama and controversy to the team that took the focus away from football. Another quality that is consistently tied to Dennis Allen is hard work and stability. It is highly likely that McKenzie believes that he has found in Allen, a guy who can handle the pressure of being an NFL head coach without allowing that pressure to lead to some of bad decisions recent Raiders coaches have made.
You hear this all of the time in reference to coaches. It is one of the biggest compliments you can pay an NFL head coach. "He got his players to buy in" or "He got his players to believe in what he was trying to accomplish". I think that Erick Davis, former Super Bowl winning safety for the San Francisco 49ers and current host on 95.7 The Game, said it best when he said that players do not need to like their coach. They do not even need to respect their coach. They only need to believe that their coach will make them better. In Allen, McKenzie has found a guy that players seem to believe in. Just look at the reaction from the Broncos' defensive players when they found out about Allen's departure:
Champ Bailey: "He knew how to get us ready. I give him a lot of credit for the success we had this year. He’s one of the most intense coaches I’ve had. I know what type of team he’s going to have (with the Raiders). Very intense, hard-nosed, tough. That’s the way he is. That’s what I expect his team to be."
Von Miller: "They are getting a guy who is going to come in right away and get it done. That’s what he did for us. He came in, he laid out a plan for us, he told us, ‘This is how we’re going to do it, and this will work,’ and that’s what happened. We improved our defense an incredible amount. It was a night and day team from a year before. I think he’ll do the same thing with the Oakland Raiders."
Andre Goodman: "(Allen’s) thing is discipline, discipline, discipline. Do everything right, all the time, and never let up."
It is important to remember that being a head coach is about much more than just the x's and o's. Being a head coach is like being a CEO. The qualities necessary to be a good head coach are not only related to football smarts. The intangible qualities that Dennis Allen bring to the table likely played a major role in McKenzie's decision to hire what will be the youngest head coach in the NFL (Youngest head coach in the NFL a Raider? Sound familiar? I'm just saying...)