You'd have to go back to 1963 to find a Raiders head coach in either Oakland or Los Angeles who wasn't hired by Al Davis, and that coach back in 1963 was … Al Davis. A few months after Davis' passing, and shortly after the team fired Hue Jackson, the Raiders announced that Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will be their new head coach.
Allen is the first defensive-minded head man hired by the Raiders since Davis promoted some newbie by the name of John Madden from linebackers coach in 1969, and he will preside over the team's seventh defensive coordinator in as many years. Presumably, new general manager Reggie McKenzie presided over the Allen decision.
"He's a rising star in this league, and he's studied under some of the better coordinators in the league," Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network said. "And as much as everyone talks about 'Tebow Time,' [the Broncos] were winning games with their defense and their pass rush. Dennis Allen is very polished, and a lot of people thought he was ready to make this jump. [The Raiders] haven't had continuity and success since Jon Gruden left [after the 2001 season, when Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers], and they know they need to get that right."
True enough — the Raiders have burned through six different head coaches since Gruden hit the road.
The 39-year-old Allen served as the New Orleans Saints assistant defensive line coach in 2006 and 2007, and secondary coach from 2009 through 2010. He learned how to build a defensive line known for creative blitzes, and a secondary with a knack for creating turnovers. He was also interviewed by the St. Louis Rams to be their potential head coach before Jeff Fisher got that job.
Hired by the Broncos as part of their massive staff turnover in the post-Josh McDaniels era, Allen did well with his first shot at running a defense. In 2011, the Broncos improved from 30th to 19th in Football Outsiders' Defensive DVOA metric despite the usual roster turnover. Allen's defense went from 31st to 24th against the pass, and from 29th to 13th against the run.
Before Denver's playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive lineman Robert Ayers talked about Allen's variable and versatile approach. "These coaches do a tremendous job game planning, watching film, studying. We saw some things we felt like we could do well. It's the playoffs. There is no time for holding back. I felt like coach Allen threw the kitchen sink at them. Whatever it takes to win; I think the players feel that way and so do the coaches."
The kitchen sink? "Garbage disposal, whatever else we can come up with," Allen replied.
Good news for a Raiders defense that was a total disaster under former coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. The Raiders ranked 22nd in DVOA against the pass and 31st against the run, despite an abundance of talent on that side of the ball.
Allen discussed his coaching philosophy late in the 2011 season.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of things. I think it's putting our guys in the right defense, putting them in situations where they can make plays, putting our playmakers in the right positions, and then our playmakers have to step up and make plays when they get those opportunities. There have been a few times when the ball has been tipped around in the air and it's been up there for anybody to grab and we haven't been able to get it. We've got to find ways to get the ball when those opportunities arise."
In a return to fundamentals after a crazy decade, the Raiders appear to have hired the right guy.