Wednesday, January 25, 2012

McKenzie's Bold Hire Just Might Pay Off

You have to admire the gumption of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie hiring a guy to be head coach who has no head coaching experience and just one year experience as an NFL defensive coordinator. In checking under the hood however, Dennis Allen is not so much of an unknown. In fact, he is a football "lifer" as Al Davis would say. Allen was a star in high school as a defensive back. He was a four year starter at Texas A&M. You know a guy is pretty good if he starts all four years at a DI program. He had a very brief stint in an NFL training camp. Then Allen proceeded to work up the coaching ladder ever since.

You don't just get NFL jobs so Allen must have been recommended and had a great network of contacts to even get interviews along the way, never mind landing the jobs (which he did with the Falcons, Saints and Broncos). Then of course it's not just who you know but how well you say it. Allen is clearly an excellent communicator both to players and during the coaching interview process.

Reggie Mckenzie is not an easy man to impress. You can tell right away McKenzie is a no bullshit type of NFL executive. He walked into Raiders HQ, cleaned house with just a single command. Once Hue Jackson was fired as head coach that left every other coach on staff in limbo as to their fate, essentially letting them go without having to tell them so.

As for what he had in mind for a head coach instead of Hue, I am now seeing the logic of McKenzie. It's all about the defense. This has been the nagging flaw of the Raiders since the Super Bowl XXXVII hammering by the Bucs in 2003. This is the Achilles heel that wouldn't heal. Al Davis was the architect of the defense every year. In Raiders tradition, it was carefully worded by coaches and observers to try and disguise this reality but having no control of the defense was one of the conditions of being offered the head coaching job. The D was all up to Al and what he dictated to his defensive coordinator. This is a key reason that made it so hard to succeed as head coach of the Raiders as well.

Now, we have a defensive-minded head coach with fresh ideas and a direct, in your face demeanor to his players along with a soft spoken Texas drawl to the media. I think we can expect player accountability across the board. No more scholarships. Just this fact alone changes everything about the previous Raiders culture.

I'm willing to keep an open mind with Dennis Allen. For now, I have faith that McKenzie knows what he is doing. I have no reason not to believe it. Reggie was mentored by Ron Wolf during his tenure with Green Bay. Long time Raiders fans know Ron Wolf was the player personnel architect who built the great Raiders teams of the 70's (including the 1976 Super Bowl team) and put the pieces in place for more Raiders Super Bowls in the 80's. It was Ron Wolf's drafting recommendations to Al Davis that got it done, not Al. Look it up. Ron Wolf was one of the best personnel men in the business and now his influence has come full circle with the hiring moves of his protégé, Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.

Of course now I have to admit Al's hiring of Ron Wolf to begin with was a stroke of genius. To that I agree.

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