Dennis Allen was introduced as Raiders head coach on Jan. 30. At 39, he has a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints from the 2009 season and a growing reputation as one of the NFL’s brightest young coaches.
Allen replaces Hue Jackson, fired by new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie on Jan. 10. Jackson had an 8-8 record in 2011, his only season at the helm with Oakland.
Allen, top photo, reportedly agreed to become the franchise's 18th head coach after a second interview on Jan. 24 with McKenzie when they were in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl. The former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator reportedly received a four-year contract, an unprecedented length for a Raiders coach.
Allen inherits a Raiders team with major penalty issues and defensive shortcomings. The Raiders have a dubious streak of nine straight non-winning seasons and haven't gone to the playoffs since 2002.
"This is a new day for Oakland Raiders football," Allen told reporters at Raiders headquarters in Alameda, Calif. "We’re going to set our own goals and aspirations.
"We are going to put a team out there that is going to play with passion. A team that is going to play with emotion, a team that is going to play with discipline.
“I don’t think radical changes are what need to be made. Obviously, just with all aspects of the game, you’re always going to try to upgrade your team in whatever way that you can but I do still feel like there’s a talented defense. I feel like we got enough players, both on offense and defense, that we can win a championship with.”
Allen is the first Raiders head coach with a defensive background since linebackers coach John Madden was hired by the late Al Davis in 1969 to succeed John Rauch. Madden won 103 games in 10 seasons and led Oakland to its first Super Bowl following the 1976 season.
Before serving as Denver’s defensive coordinator this season, Allen spent five years as a defensive assistant with New Orleans and also coached for Atlanta. He helped the Broncos improve from allowing a league-worst 29.4 points and 390.8 yards per game in 2010 to ranking 20th in yards (357.8) and 24th in points (24.4) this season on the way to an AFC West title. The Broncos tied for 10th with 41 sacks and won their first playoff game in six seasons.
"I targeted coach Allen … from the start, “ McKenzie told reporters from the podium he shared with Allen. “What he did in Denver and turned that defense around, it made me take notice.”.
"He understood the big picture as far as putting a plan together. We went over everything. How you treat people, how you treat players, getting a staff together. It was all right in line with the way I was thinking. We had a lot of like thoughts about football, the Raiders, players and his passion. His intensity and his drive, that was just icing on the cake.’’
Allen said: “I’m going to do everything I can to prove you right and to make you proud.”
Allen, right, becomes the Raiders' seventh head coach since Jon Gruden left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2001 season — following Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Jackson. Gruden is the last Raiders head coach to spend four seasons on the job. The Raiders have fired eight head coaches (Mike White and Joe Bugel were the others) since the team returned to Oakland in 1995.
The Raiders haven't had a winning record since going 12-4 in 2002. Their 99 losses over the past nine seasons are the second most in the NFL and their current nine-year playoff drought is tied with Cleveland for the second longest in the league.
"If you’re passionate about the message you believe in, I firmly believe you can get people to follow you,’’ Allen said. 'Our message to these players is that we’re going to look for tough, smart, hard-working committed players that want to be the best. We’re not going to settle for anything less than that."
Allen's biggest task with his new team is to reduce penalties and improve a woeful defense.
The Raiders committed 163 penalties for 1,358 yards in 2011, setting NFL records in both categories. Since the start of the 2003 season, Oakland has committed a league-worst 1,183 penalties — 133 more than second-worst Arizona, which is the same difference between second and 14th place.
"The only way that you create habits is through consistency, doing the same things over and over and over," Allen said. "If you’re committing penalties, that becomes a habit. We’ve got to change those habits.
"You coach them firm and you coach them fair, and you hold them accountable to their actions, and that’s what we’re going to do here. I don’t know how it was done in the past because I wasn’t here, but I do know that that’s what I believe in.’’
On defense this season, the Raiders established franchise worsts in touchdown passes allowed (31), rushing yards per carry (5.1), yards passing (4,262) and total yards (6,201), while giving up the third-most points (433) in team history.
Oakland joined this season's Tampa Bay Buccaneers as two of the four teams to allow at least 30 TD passes and 5.0 yards per carry in a season, a distinction achieved previously by only the 1950 Baltimore Colts and 1952 Dallas Texans. The Raiders also became the sixth team since the 1970 merger to allow at least 2,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards passing in a season.
Since 2003, the Raiders have the worst run defense in the league, allowing 175 touchdowns on the ground and 141.7 yards rushing per game.
"We’re going to do a lot of different things on defense," Allen said. "We’re going to be attacking and aggressive in a bunch of different areas. I don’t’ really get hung up on the 4-3, 3-4 personnel. We’re going to find out what our players can do the best."
Allen reportedly is in the process of assembling his coaching staff. McKenzie said that Allen will have the authority to hire his own coaches, a departure from the past when Davis hired the team's coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders is the only assistant from Jackson's 2011 staff under contract for next season.
Allen told reporters he will not call defensive plays as head coach, preferring to be a “game manager” who is involved in all facets of the team on game days. Allen also said he wants to run an up-tempo, aggressive offense that will stress the run with explosive ability similar to that of the New Orleans Saints.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen answers questions
during a news conference on Jan. 30, 2012.
By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images