PROGRAMMING ALERT: The press conference to introduce new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen will be streamed live on CSNCalifornia.com and broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California at 12 p.m.
Theres a lot of pressure on Dennis Allen today, more than on any other coach in Oakland Raider history. You may not see it on his face, because he might be really good at the press conference game, but inside, hell be a mass of hyper-firing nerve endings.Allen, you see, is the first Raider coach in history who has to worry about how many times he has to mention Al Davis by name. Before Davis came to Oakland, the answer was obviously zero. When he was the coach, he mentioned his name enough for everyones satisfaction except, of course, for Wayne Valley, the owner who brought him in and learned to hate him, and then got kicked to the curb.And after Davis went to the AFL as commissioner and then returned, the answer to how many times his name needed to be mentioned in a presser was always, As many times as can be reasonably fitted into the conversation.From Rauch to Madden to Flores to Shanahan to Shell to White to Bugel to Gruden to Callahan to Turner to Shell again to Kiffin to Cable to Jackson, Jon 1 was always getting Mr. Davis name up high and sprinkle it liberally throughout any public speaking engagement.It was just what had to be done fealty to the emperor, and all that.But as all emperors eventually do, Davis has died, his son Mark is the new face of the franchise, he has hired an all-powerful general manager in Reggie McKenzie, and McKenzie in turn has hired Allen, the first former Denver Bronco employee since Mike Shanahan.And Allen has a choice he needs to make how much Al is enough.Does he not mention him at all, since the whole idea is to change the franchise into a post-Al footing? Does he mention Al by connecting him to Mark? Does he mention Mark, and if so, how much? How many times can he mention McKenzies name without seeming too obsequious or ignorant of the old Alameda traditions?And after Jackson, who mentioned Amy Trask often enough to make her seem like the teams draft guru, does Allen slip her name into the conversation at all?The obvious answer, of course, is Why does this matter? Its just a press conference. And thats true, as far as it goes. We grade by press conference far too much, because we think it matters more than it does. We think it is a window into a team's soul, when in fact it is usually a window into the next curtain.But Allen has no other track record upon which to rely. He is 39, which is young for an NFL head coach, although he is only the eighth-youngest Raider coach in history an interesting notion for a team that has been so set in its old-fashioned ways for so long.So all we have is the press conference to go on, and this being his first, we have to place more importance in less data. Like how many times he mentions Als name. He may not be in transition from Al to post-Al, but everyone else is, and how he handles the 900-ton elephant will amuse us until we get a better sense of who he is and why hes here.Which, truthfully, is a reasonable set of questions for his boss, and for his boss boss as well.But one thing will help Allen as begins his voyage on the Good Ship Eyepatch: mentioning the Broncos in only the most disparaging of ways, even while acknowledging the debt that must be paid to them. Some traditions survive even the death of the emperor.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com