ALAMEDA -- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie praised new coach Dennis Allen Monday, indicating that the former Broncos coordinator "exceeded expectations" during the interview process.
But even before they met to discuss the job, McKenzie admitted that he was leaning toward the 39-year-old Allen -- the NFL's youngest coach.
"I targeted coach Allen ... from the start, " McKenzie said.
The former Los Angeles Raiders linebacker and longtime Green Bay personnel executive said that after interviewing Allen he made two phone calls to communicate how positive he was about Allen as a candidate.
"To say I was excited after the interview with Coach Allen would be a major understatement," McKenzie said. "I was extremely excited after this interview. After the interview I quickly called two people -- that was Mark Davis and my wife. They could feel the excitement I had. ... I'm looking for a guy that can lead these men -- that was passionate about the game, passionate about teaching and passionate about the Oakland Raiders.
"Not only did Dennis Allen do that for me he exceeded those expectations."
McKenzie said that he'd targeted Allen as a top candidate to replace the fired Hue Jackson -- despite the fact that Allen had never been a head coach at any level -- based on the 39-year-old's rapid ascent in the coaching ranks.
"Researching Coach Allen, to follow where he came from, and what led him to Denver -- when he got to New Orleans, going from the defensive line to the secondary -- I saw how the secondary vastly improved. They won the Super Bowl with Dennis as the secondary coach. And what he did in Denver to turn that defense around, it made me take notice.
"So the more I researched, the more I talked to different people, I couldn't get a bad word from anyone about Coach Dennis Allen. So he was on my list, and I needed to see for myself, who this coach Dennis Allen was. When I did, everything was good."
The Raiders had an NFL-best seven players on the initial Pro Bowl roster. The number planning to play in the league’s all-star game continues to dwindle.
That total's down to three after left tackle Donald Penn and receiver Amari Cooper bowed out. Penn won’t be ready after suffering a knee injury in the regular-season finale, an ailment that kept him out of a playoff loss at Houston. Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth will take Penn’s place.
Cooper battled a shoulder injury late last season, though it's uncertain exactly what is keeping him from the game.
In addition to Penn and Cooper, Quarterback Derek Carr obviously can't play while recovering from surgery to repair a broken fibula. Edge rusher Khalil Mack also bowed out recently with what is believed to be a minor back injury.
There’s a possibility a fifth Raider will also excuse himself. Center Rodney Hudson suffered an ankle injury in the playoffs. It remains uncertain whether he’ll play in the Pro Bowl.
Safety Reggie Nelson and left guard Kelechi Osemele remain firmly in the fray at this stage.
Mike Tice’s contract expired shortly after this season’s end, but there was strong belief he would retain his post with a new deal.
A league source confirmed Wednesday that a new deal was in place for Tice to remain with the Raiders. The exact length of the contract was not disclosed. Assistant coach contracts are typically set for two years, though they can be three in some cases.
Tice was the first assistant Jack Del Rio hired after being named Raiders head coach. The two are long-time friends, dating back to days playing for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1990s.
Tice was Del Rio’s assistant head coach for three seasons in Jacksonville, which made him a natural fit for a new project in Oakland. It was a smart hire. Tice has been excellent as Raiders offensive line coach, managing and scheming for one of the NFL’s best position groups.
ESPN first reported the Tice agreement.
While offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was allowed to leave on an expired contract and is now Denver quarterbacks coach, the rest of the Raiders offensive staff remains intact.
Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator and his assistant Jake Peetz assumes his old post.
The Raiders still have a vacancy on the defensive side, with Marcus Robertson out and on to the Broncos staff.