Make no mistake, Allen new face of Raiders franchise

January 30, 2012, 10:12 pm
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Dennis Allen looked and acted on Monday like a guy who knows his boss has his back. Thats confidence in a way that merely saying the word confidence cannot.

He also looked like a man who wants command, who has thought about command, and sees that being the new coach of the Oakland Raiders is, for the first time in nearly half a century, a true chance to command.

And he also looked, at least facially, like Washingtons Kyle Shanahan, which should not unnerve you too much. Most young football coaches tend to look like Kyle Shanahan.

Mostly, Allen gave off the vibe of someone who is not going into this Raider thing blind. He knows he has been brought to Le Trou Noir to be definitive rather than deferential. His bearing and accent say Texas A&M, and his complete surety shouts, Go on, test me. I dare you.

This, then, is the new face of the Oakland Raiders -- a man like McKenzie, only without the rounded edges. They were brought here under separate cover to change what the Raiders have come to be known for -- underachievement, indiscipline, failure in moments of stress and overall playoff avoidance.

Oh, he used all the buzzwords -- up-tempo and aggressive and disciplined, most notably, as though most coaches come out in favor of slow, passive sloth.

But it was the specificity of his answers on certain topics that leaped out as coming from a guy who has already seized the job.

He knows what kind of coach he would be -- a game manager, not a hands-on-too-tight play-by-play detail hog. He knows his view of talented but undisciplined players -- they wouldnt play. He knows one area he needs to dramatically improve off the bat -- the secondary, which was shredded for nearly 4,300 yards and 31 scores last year.

And he paid as much attention to acknowledging the Raiders past as he needed to, and not beyond. He regards it, pure and simple, as far less important than establishing a strong and sensible future.

That came in response to a question from a fan, an odd idea that we suspect will be imitated by other teams in the years to come. Allen handled it with the same shark-eyed, jut-jawed glare that he handled all the others.

He is, in short, the first coach since Al Davis in 1963 to speak so frankly of command, and if in fact he backs up his image and words with deeds come OTAs and training camp, and the players realize how dramatic the change is from the weird old days, he will in fact be that commander.

Of course, the proof is in the two-a-days, and it helps that he got to see the Raiders in person at their best (when they sat on the Broncos in Week One by not allowing them to run the ball) and worst (when they went in the tank in Week 9, blowing two 10-point leads and giving up 100-yard games to Willis McGahee and The Tebow).

In doing so, he saw why the Raiders can impress, and why they are held in such disdain when they dont. And even if he wasnt making notes on the Raiders after those two games, he surely has since.

None of this, of course, gets him Win 1, but as the living embodiment of the new power washer being taken to the Raiders, hell do fine. It is instructive that owner Mark Davis read a brief introduction and then left the stage to McKenzie and Allen. Not only did Al never do that, most owners dont. They want you to know that they own the team and that their word is law. Davis wanted to leave the absolute opposite impression, so he left.

The result of this, we suspect, is that a lot of players will find Allens style of leadership off-putting, and will miss the old laissez-faire days when the players held the hammer because they had better access to Al than the coach did. Some may even resist, or rebel.

But as we said, Allen is McKenzies guy, and McKenzie has the keys. Whether this lasts four years, the length of Allens contract, remains to be seen, but he wont be able to say, as so many have before him, that he wasnt given the chance to be his own man.

And that is very un-Raider-like indeed.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for