Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcome Aboard Dennis Allen

The Raiders organization made the second bold step today in the new era with the hiring of Dennis Allen as the Head Coach. The last time the Raiders hired a defensive minded head coach was John Madden in 1969 … 43 years ago!

Dennis Allen’s Career Path:
1996-1999 - Texas A&M University (Graduate Assistant Coach)
2000-2001 - Tulsa University (Secondary Coach)
2002-2005 - Atlanta Falcons (Defensive Asst./Quality Control Coach)
2006-2007 - New Orleans Saints (Asst. Defensive Line Coach)
2008-2010 - New Orleans Saints (Secondary Coach)
2011-2012 - Denver Broncos (Defensive Coordinator)
2012-Pres - Oakland Raiders (Head Coach)

A 48 year old GM and 39 year old HC ... fresh ideas for a minty fresh feeling! I'm excited to learn more about Allen and look forward to the re-constructed coaching staff being assembled in earnest.

We've got our 2 most important leaders in place ready to roll up their sleeves and get busy restoring the greatness of the Raiders. Onwards and Upwards!

Friday, January 06, 2012

A New Raiders Era Officially Begins Today!

When Al Davis passed away in October of 2011, the Raiders embarked on the beginning stages of a new era. The organization's transitional phase during the regular season was bumpy with a vacuum in the front office in terms of a leading football executive. From the average Raider fan's perspective and in spite of speculation, there was uncertainty on how (and when) the new era's plan would be executed. A mere 4 days after the completion of the season the lead candidate, Reggie Mckenzie, was interviewed for the role of Raiders GM. 2 days after interviewing, McKenzie was hired effective immediately. The decisive action taken by Mark Davis in securing McKenzie to become the key leader of the front office is remarkable and praise worthy.

There are many interesting associations between the key people involved with this important hire and possible new additions to the franchise as a new chapter in Raider football truly begins.

Reggie McKenzie: Former Raider player and Director of Football Operations at Green Bay.

Al Davis: Drafted McKenzie in 1985 to play LB for the Los Angeles Raiders. Al's son (Mark), current owner, interviewed McKenzie on Wednesday based on the recommendation of Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.

John Madden: Hired by Al Davis as the Raiders Head Coach. By the pre-planned request of Al Davis, acted as a consultant to Mark Davis. Madden and Mark Davis interviewed McKenzie.

Ron Wolf: Former Raiders and Green Bay executive who highly recommended McKenzie to Mark Davis. Ron's son (Eliot) was hired by Reggie McKenzie at Green Bay as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel. Eliot Wolf is rumored to be rejoining McKenzie with the Raiders in some executive capacity.

Ken Herock: Former Raiders player who followed Ron Wolf to the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs as Director of Player Personnel and endorsed McKenzie to be GM of the Raiders. One of Ken's sons (Shaun) is currently the Assistant Director of Scouting at Green Bay.

Winston Moss: Former Raider player and current LB Coach at Green Bay. Rumored to be joining the Raiders coaching staff as either Head Coach or Defensive Coordinator.

Darren Perry: Former Raider DB Coach and current Safeties Coach at Green Bay. It is rumored that Perry will be joining the Raiders coaching staff in some capacity.

The father-son dynamic and the Raiders-Packers connections are quite unique.

Al Davis/Mark Davis; Ron Wolf (Raiders/Packers)/Eliot Wolf (Packers); Ken Herock (Raiders)/Shaun Herock (Packers)

The hiring of Reggie McKenzie as the Raiders General Manager is a breath of fresh air for some tired lungs. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Al Davis but over the past few years, I desperately wanted a traditional GM to steer the organization into the 21st century. McKenzie has been groomed the past 18 years with the Green Bay Packers front office as a Director of Football Operations.

This quote from McKenzie's former boss bodes well for a bright, new future;

"I would like to thank Reggie McKenzie for all that he has done for the Green Bay Packers over the last 18 years," Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. "Reggie is a tremendous talent, but more importantly, he is a good friend and great family man. His contributions to our organization are numerous and he is ready for the opportunity to be a general manager in the National Football League. It's been a privilege to work with Reggie, he is a good man."

Lastly, I suppose the big elephant in the room is the status of Hue Jackson. With McKenzie on board and the transition of the organizational overhaul in the infancy stages, it would seem to be a 50/50 proposition on whether Jackson stays or goes. On the one hand, I like Hue's aggressive nature and offensive mind. There is no question that the Raiders offense has elite capabilities under Jackson's leadership. An argument can be made that as a rookie Head Coach, Jackson is learning on the job and had too much on his plate with the passing of Davis. On the other hand, the Raiders record setting # of penalties and 1-4 finish should be blamed to the man leading the coaching staff, Jackson.

The 2 possible outcomes of McKenzie coming on board are:

(1) Retain Jackson to keep stability at Head Coach but put him on a short leash. Based on the performance of the team in 2012 will dictate Jackson's future with the Raiders beyond 2012.

(2) Show Jackson the door under the purview of the GM and put his stamp on the organizational overhaul. I'm quite certain that McKenzie already has a short list of potential candidate from his 18 years in the league as a high ranking executive.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Sour Ending to 2011 Season

Raiders 26 - Chargers 38

The Raiders season ended with disappointment, unfulfilled expectations, and on a sour note at the hands of the Chargers. With a playoff berth and AFC West Divisional title on the line, the game started brightly. In front of the 8th consecutive sell-out crowd at O.com, Safety Giordano picked off Philip Rivers on the opening possession on the 5 yard line. The Raiders offensive unit promptly and efficiently marched 95 yards culminating in a Palmer to DHB TD in the corner of the end zone.

With the fans jacked up, an early 7-0 lead, the air was let out of the balloon by a porous Raiders D. For the rest of the entire game, the Raiders defense kept the Chargers punter parked on the bench idle. The fact that the opponent's punter didn't have 1 single attempt in a 60:00 minute game, is a colossal failure. In essence, the Raiders D failed to make a single drive stopping play in nearly 53 minutes of the remaining action and the Chargers final 7 possessions.

The defensive ineptitude demonstrated in this game wasn't anything new for the 2011 Raiders. After the win over the Bears, the Raiders were 7-4 and in control of the AFC West. The Raiders laid an egg by going 1-4 in the remaining 5 games. In the 4 losses, the opponent averaged 38 points (34 to Mia; 46 to GBay; 28 to Det; and 38 to SD). The Raiders finished the season as the #29 ranked defense in points allowed (27.1).

The Chargers were able to ring up 38 points, 25 first downs, and 463 total yards very easily. The Raiders defense was unable to pressure Rivers through the front 4 or by blitzing. Rivers wasn't sacked and was hit only 1 time the entire game. On the back end, the Raiders pass coverage was atrocious. Blown coverages, bad schemes (Wimbley covering Gates; McClain on Jackson), and an inability to make a game changing defensive play was on full display.

In spite of the poor defensive performance throughout the game, the unit still had a golden opportunity to FINALLY make 1 important stop mid way through the fourth quarter. With the Raiders closing the gap to 26-31 on a TD pass to Boss and more than 9:00 left in the game, the Raiders D had the Chargers backed up on the 1/2 yard line. With a Chargers defender drawing a 15 yard personal foul on Boss in the end zone, SeaBass kicked off from the 50 and popped it up near the goal line. The Charger return man (Goodman) struggled to avoid a safety and barely crossed the end line.

Just like the beginning of the game, the crowd was pumped up in anticipation of an opportunity to turn the tide. The Chargers offense ended the season and all hope by marching 99 yards to paydirt. This 99 yard drive was very similar and equally disturbing as the Lions game winning drive at the end of the game from the 2 yard line. Instead of the defensive leaders of the Raiders rising up to a game defining challenge, it came up small and broken.

Judging from Hue Jackson's "pissed off" comments in the post-game press conference, this bitter ending to a season that had so much promise will be the cause for big changes in 2012. It is very evident that the defense needs to be overhauled from top to bottom. A proven Defensive Coordinator with strong leadership and a clear vision on how to get the defensive ship off the rocks is paramount.