McKenzie: Allen's Raiders must improve in the clutch

McKenzie: Allen's Raiders must improve in the clutch
January 18, 2014, 9:15 am
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The Raiders 3-6 in games they were tied or ahead at halftime, and 2-4 in games decided by less than 10 points. (USATSI)

Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie never thought his head coach should be fired. He recommended that owner Mark Davis keep Dennis Allen despite an 8-24 record over two seasons.

Owner Mark Davis eventually heeded McKenzie’s advice to keep continuity in the coaching ranks. Just because McKenzie wanted to keep Allen doesn’t mean he was completely satisfied with the 41-year old’s job performance.

McKenzie singled out an inability to finish close games as something he’d like Allen to continue to work on. That’s a good homework assignment, because the 2013 Raiders weren’t good in the clutch. They were 3-6 in games where they were tied or ahead at halftime. The Raiders were 2-4 in games decided by less than 10 points.

Not good numbers. That’s why the Raiders talked time and again about what they should’ve and could’ve done this season. That’s why a 4-12 record was a bit more respectable.

[RELATED: McKenzie: 2013 Raiders 'a different 4-12']

An inability to perform in the clutch as something to do with players and talent and on-field execution, but McKenzie said during Thursday’s pow-wow with local press that he hopes Allen can better help his team win close games.

“Let’s figure out how to win games, the close games, especially,” McKenzie said. “Let’s take a look at that and see what happens, whether we fix it, or get it turned around, however it gets done, so we can win one or two of those close ones.

“You could say there were three or four games where it easily could have went the other way. Let’s figure out how we can do that. …You can X and O it to death, but from a big picture standpoint, let’s just figure out ways that we can turn those close ones into wins.”

The volume of losing piled on top of Allen over the course of the season, which led to obvious questions about his future as Raiders coach.

“It was not an issue with me,” McKenzie said. “I understand how things kind of go in different directions when it gets toward the end of the season throughout the league when predicting who’s going to be in, who’s going to be out. I understood all that. But I wasn’t going to play into that, I didn’t think it needed any, I wasn’t going to add fuel just to put out a fire that wasn’t there.”

McKenzie felt the need to re-assure Allen that questions about job security weren’t coming from him.

“I took it upon myself to just say, ‘Hey, man, all the stuff that’s out there, I don’t know where that’s coming from. Just coach these guys, let’s get going,’” McKenzie said. “I did it myself, Dennis didn’t have to come to me.”

The Raiders kept his staff largely intact -- only secondary coaches Johnnie Lynn and Clayton Lopez and special team assistant Keith Burns aren’t coming back -- at Allen’s request.

[RELATED: McKenzie: 'We have needs, with an 'S'']

Now the head coach and general manager who took the Raiders through a tough period have a chance to rebuild the roster and start winning close games lost last season.