By Ryan Leong
Despite a decade of mediocrity, there are no shortage of storylines when it comes to the Oakland Raiders. In fact, each of the past t10 seasons has had drama surpassing that of a daytime soap opera.
This week has been especially difficult for rookie head coach Dennis Allen. In addition to the team having extended its losing streak to five games, Allen had to deal with a personal tragedy. His father Grady had become ill in the last week and his condition turned for the worst on Sunday. Dennis flew home to Dallas right after the game and made it back in time before Grady passed away in the overnight hours from cardiac arrest Monday night. He was only 66 years old.
There already is speculation that Allen’s job is in jeopardy because the team is regressing and on pace for a 4-12 record. The Raiders haven’t been that bad since 2007 which was Lane Kiffin’s first year as head coach. Rumors are also circulating that former head coach Jon Gruden could return to the organization. Nicknamed “Chucky” for his resemblance to the evil possessed toy from the Child’s Play movies, Gruden became a fan favorite for his intensity and success.
Since Gruden’s departure from the Silver and Black, it’s been a carousel of coaches: Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, and now Allen.
Gruden’s last game as coach was the infamous ‘tuck rule’ game. The win by the Patriots in that controversial playoff was the emergence of Tom Brady who has become one of the great quarterbacks of his generation. After the season, Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay for draft picks and former senior executive Bruce Allen joined him.
While the Raiders would go on to Super Bowl XXXVII the next year under Callahan, it was a team built by Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. And as fate would have it, Gruden would beat his former team to win the Lombardi trophy. When Gruden was coach from 1998-2001, his record was 40-28 for a .588 winning percentage.
Following that Super Bowl in 2003, the Raiders are 48-108, a.307 clip.
The problem is, Gruden says he wants to stay with ESPN’s Monday Night Football where he has become one of the most popular analysis since John Madden, who still holds the Raiders’ franchise record for career wins with 112.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie is also committed to Dennis Allen and signed the first time head coach to a four-year contract. In order to get Gruden to leave his cushy and lucrative TV job, it would cost a lot of money. Dennis Allen’s contract would have to be honored and Gruden won’t come cheap. He also wants total control and with McKenzie as the general manager it does not seem likely.
Then again, Gruden proved his sustained popularity when he lit the ceremonial Al Davis cauldron before the game against the Saints. Gruden was in town for the Bears-49ers Monday Night tilt. He received a thunderous standing ovation and Gruden emphatically responded with a few fist pumps and that steely eyed Chucky scowl.
Dennis Allen has been a disappointment for someone who was touted as a defensive minded coach. The Raiders defense allowed a franchise-worst 169 points over four games, and while the team only gave up 20 points to Cleveland, the Browns amassed 475 yards of total offense.
But he has also been thrust into a very difficult situation where it’s obvious the Raiders were not going to contend for the playoffs. Although the 2012 slogan is ‘A New Era of Excellence’ symbolizing a change, fans are not going to buy tickets to watch a team that is advertised as rebuilding. In fact, it’s going to take several years to get the Raiders back to past glory.
In this day and age of increased media scrutiny, cable networks like ESPN and NFL Network, social media with Facebook and Twitter, the pressure to win now is greater than ever.
It’s not fair that the microscope is focused on Allen and McKenzie but the two inherited a culture of losing and there seems to be no end in sight. The rumors will only increase as the losses continue to mount. With four games remaining, if Allen goes 0-4, there is more than a possibility he could get his pink slip.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.