Two weeks to the day that the Raiders fired former head coach Hue Jackson, the team has a new head coach. He is former Broncos defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen.
At 39 years of age, Allen comes in as the youngest head coach in the NFL. Hiring young head coaches is nothing new for the Raiders. It typically works out quite well for them. Jon Gruden, at the age of 35, was the youngest head coach in the NFL when he was hired. He was so young, his quarterback, Rich Gannon, was just two years younger. The Raiders also hired Mike Shanahan as their head coach when he was just 36 years of age. He has since gone on to a long successful NFL career.
Al Davis himself was fairly young (34) when he became the head coach of the Raiders. He later would promote their young linebackers coach John Madden to the job. Madden was the youngest head coach in the NFL at the age of 32 when he took over the head coaching job. Eight seasons later, he would lead the Raiders to their first Super Bowl. Madden was also the last defensive head coach the Raiders had… until now.
Madden became the Raiders’ head coach in 1969 which means that it has been 43 years since the Raiders had a defensive minded head coach. This hire makes a definitive statement proving what new GM Reggie McKenzie said about changing the culture inside the Raiders’ organization.
The next step in this change in culture will be allowing Allen to pick his own staff — something that Al Davis was not known for allowing. It will be important for Allen to surround himself with some quality coordinators and assistants as his rise to head coach happened quickly.
Allen is very much like Hue Jackson in that respect. Jackson was offensive coordinator in the NFL for one season before being promoted to head coach. Allen spent last season as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator — his one and only season as a coordinator.
Prior to being named the defensive coordinator in Denver under Broncos’ new head coach, John Fox, Allen was a long time position coach in the NFL. His NFL coaching career started in 2002 as a defensive assistant/quality control coach with the Falcons. After four seasons in Atlanta, he moved on to the Saints as their assistant defensive line coach and later their secondary coach.
As the defensive coordinator for the Broncos last season, the Broncos rose from the worst defense in the NFL in 2010 to 20th in the league. The Broncos’ defense was like night and day between the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Teams had their way with them in 2010. But last season, they were far more aggressive and kept the Broncos in a lot of games while Tim Tebow got off to slow starts.
Tebow got all the credit for his miracle fourth quarter comebacks but it was the defense that held the other team down until Tebow could spring to life. During the team’s six game win streak, the defense held opposing teams to an average of 17 points per game. This included two overtime wins over the Chargers and Bears in which their potent offenses were held to 13 and 10 points respectively.
That six-game win streak is what helped the Broncos win the AFC West and head to the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers before losing to the now Super Bowl bound New England Patriots.
The Raiders are expected to make the hiring official by tomorrow with a press conference soon to follow.