Well, it looks like Dennis Allen will be our new head coach. The following was written for the Denver Post at the beginning of the 2011 season:
Over the course of more than seven hours one day in January, John Fox and Dennis Allen sat at a table in the den of Fox's home in Charlotte, N.C., and discovered they were kindred football spirits.
Both were college safeties who started their coaching careers as low-level defensive coaches in the college ranks. Fox was 39 years old when he got his first NFL defensive coordinator job, with the Oakland Raiders in 1994. Allen was 38 and the secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints when Fox asked permission to interview him for his first defensive coordinator job.
Fox's wife, Robin, turned the den in their home in North Carolina into a makeshift office — complete with whiteboards and a full supply of dry-erase markers — so Fox could interview Allen, a man who, until that day, he had known only afar and by reputation.
"I had heard good things about him, and then once you put him on the board and you listen to what his philosophies are and you hear similarities that fit me, I thought it was a perfect fit for us," Fox said Friday. "I think a lot of times, you're just looking for young, energetic, sharp guys that want to be the best."
Fox hired Allen on Jan. 24, making Allen the Broncos' sixth defensive coordinator in six seasons.
"It was one of those things where it was a whirlwind deal," Allen said. "If you do a good job, eventually people recognize you. I believe that, and I think that's what probably happened. I was surprised because I had no idea any of that was happening, but once it did happen, I was excited about the opportunity."
A huge challenge right away
Allen arrived with perhaps the biggest challenge of any of the Broncos' new coaches. He would have to design and install a new defensive scheme — Fox and Allen wanted a 4-3 instead of the 3-4 that former head coach Josh McDaniels ran — and he would have to do it without the benefit of spring workouts because of the NFL lockout.
Though he had never been a coordinator before, Allen commanded respect from his players almost immediately.
Defensive players said they trusted that their new head coach, with Fox's own background as a defensive coordinator, had selected the right guy to put in charge of turning around a unit that finished last in the NFL in total defense last year.
"He must have a military background, that's the first thing I thought of. Must have been in the military or had that in his family background, some way or another. That's the way he carries himself," cornerback Andre Goodman said. "His thing is discipline, discipline, discipline. Do everything right, all the time, and never let up."
While polling players for words to describe Allen's personality and coaching style, three came up every time: intense, discipline and teacher.
Players said they respected Allen's attention to detail when it came to installing the new defense and his ability to make each player understand his new role.
"You know how you get a teacher that's real stern but not over the top? That's how he is," veteran cornerback Champ Bailey said.
Intense, militaristic coaching style
Anyone who came to watch Broncos training camp could see Allen's intensity during practice. He stalks from position group to position group, arms folded, overseeing drills. He claps his hands enthusiastically at good plays, shouts louder after poor ones. Allen's focus is on effort and on eliminating mistakes. Players had better run during full-speed practices and jog during walkthroughs. If a guy makes an error, he can expect to see it on the big screen later in meetings.
"Listen, I don't believe in berating guys. Don't believe in talking down to them. We work together. They don't work for me or us as coaches. But at the end of the day, we're going to point out problems and we're going to get them corrected, because if you don't get them corrected, they're going to fester, and eventually they're going to get you beat," Allen said. "We point out of there is an issue with effort. If there is an issue with an assignment, we make sure we bring it to their attention, and make sure we get it corrected."
Freedom to run the defense
Allen already has an arsenal of sayings that have already become ingrained in players' heads. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil laughed when asked to rattle off the Allen-isms after practice this week.
" 'See the ball.' 'Turn your head.' 'Strike fear in them.' 'Attack, attack,' " Dumervil said. "I can't say all the other ones."
Fox is involved in defensive game-planning, but he lets Allen run the defensive practices during the week and call the plays on game days. The four preseason games were Allen's first time calling an entire game. He said he will consult with Fox on the sideline from time to time, but that he appreciates that Fox has "given me the latitude to run the defense the way I want to run it."
"The fact that he's a defensive coach, a defensive mind, that's always a comforting thing, especially when you're a young coordinator doing it for the first time," Allen said. "Having him there to bounce ideas off, he'll come in and throw some ideas off, he'll come in and throw some ideas at me, and we were able to sort some things out. At the end of the day, it's our defense. And it's going to be combination of the things he likes and believes in, and mine."
Allen's first test as defensive coordinator will be a big one. The Raiders, more so than any other team last year, exposed the weaknesses in the Broncos' 2010 defense, racking up 98 points and nearly 600 rushing yards in two games.
Players believe that their new coordinator is just one of the reasons why things will be different.
"We needed a makeover, all the way around. I can't say there is one aspect of the defense that we can hang our hat on from last year," Goodman said. "He's definitely a fresh feel and exactly what we needed."
It sounds like Reggie is trying to change the historic culture of the Raiders. The lack of discipline seems to have fueled his search for a HC.
Are you more excited about Dennis Allen now?
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