Heading into its second full offseason, the Raiders’ new regime led by general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen will be expected to start showing results, and soon.
While the NFL is certainly a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of league, patience is the virtue for the Raiders and most certainly their dedicated fanbase.
The situation Reggie McKenzie inherited when taking over as GM of the Raiders was a borderline disaster. Of course, the team had some talent and still does, but there’s much more to it than that.
McKenzie came into a situation that we could liken to that of the NY Jets GM job, which some, including NFL insider Jay Glazer, reported that the Jets have had trouble finding a candidate for.
Many underestimate the stranglehold that a poor salary cap situation can have on a general manager’s ability to improve the team.
Many will undoubtedly argue that former Raiders owner Al Davis always made it work and that the cap can easily be manipulated. Yet at the same time, it is that idea of “making it work” and pushing money into future years that put the team in the situation it was in.
Like any other financial cover-up, you may be able to keep putting off the money, but eventually it will catch up to you.
Caught up to the Raiders it did, and McKenzie started by cutting players with big salaries like Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley. As we know, the team would take the immediate cap hits for both at the same time.
In this, McKenzie and the Raiders had very little if any choice. With the future of the organization in mind, the salary cap situation had to be fixed immediately and this was how it needed to be done.
Fast-forward to the draft, where, courtesy of the Carson Palmer trade, the 2011 draft-day deal to acquire Joseph Barksdale and Taiwan Jones and the supplemental draft selection of Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders did not select until the compensatory picks of the third round.
While a 4-12 season is certainly disappointing and both the organization and fans certainly want better, could we really have expected the Raiders to compete right away?
The point being, the turnaround and rebuilding of this franchise is going to take time. As fans, we want to see our teams win right away. When a new coach or GM is brought in, we want to see instant results, reaffirming just why it was they were brought in to do the job.
While that is understandable, it is not always a realistic expectation—especially not in the kind of situation this franchise was in.
Reggie McKenzie’s coaching search was widely expected to result in him hiring a coach with whom he had a Packers connection. This included the likes of Winston Moss, Joe Philbin and Dom Capers, to name a few.
The fact that his search concluded with him naming Dennis Allen the next Raiders head coach shows that he saw something that made him more comfortable with Allen than with the men he had worked with all those years in Green Bay.
Allen may have certainly made his share of mistakes in his first year as a head coach. The biggest of which is more than likely the hiring of Greg Knapp at offensive coordinator, who would unsuccessfully attempt to fit the Raiders players into his system.
At the same time, we can expect that Allen will learn from this moving forward, starting with the hiring of a new OC over the next little while.
In Year 1 of a complete organizational overhaul, the new head coach’s job is not necessarily defined by the wins. McKenzie’s recent media roundtable would suggest he was actually happy with the job Allen did for other reasons (per the Contra Costa Times' Jerry McDonald):
McKenzie was pleased with the job coach Dennis Allen did during the season in terms of changing the culture of the locker room and practice sessions and setting expectations. He liked team morale and the way the team competed—especially on defense—during December following an awful November.
After what was a very tough season to watch, there were likely many fans across Raider Nation hoping for the firing of Allen, McKenzie or even both. That mentality is not the answer.
Does that mean that fans should be happy with a 4-12 season? No, but there is much more to take into consideration when assessing the performance of the two men running the show.
McKenzie and Allen should and likely will be assessed on how it is the organization looks come 2014. By then, the Raiders are likely to have rid themselves of most of the dead money against the cap, not to mention the expected salary cap increase across the NFL.
The goal is for this team to be built the right way. The right way is doing so slowly but surely, with an emphasis on adding more through the draft than through free agency.
In a few years, if the Raiders are putting as bad of a product on the field as we saw in 2012, then changes should and certainly will be made. However, right now, the leadership in place cannot be fully assessed. It simply has not yet had the time, nor the resources, to do what needs to be done.
Football fans are some of the most passionate on the planet. They want their team to win, and win now. Raider Nation is no different.
At the same time, the trial-and-error strategy of coaching and personnel hires that we have seen over the past decade is not the way to go.
Though it may not be seen in the win column yet, this Raiders franchise is headed in the right direction. More from McKenzie (via McDonald):
“We’re not trying to hurry up to win one or two games and mortgage the possibility of winning 10 more,” McKenzie said. “We’re just going to build it the right way and make good, sound decisions.”
Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen aren’t going anywhere, and that’s a good thing.
For Raiders fans itching for their team to get back to the greatness that they have so long been known for, patience is the key.