What I see: Coaching staff

For what it's worth, this will be an ongoing series of what I think needs to happen, or what I think will happen. For what I think needs to happen, I will obviously put out who, what and when I see as the best moves that are available at the time; for what I think will happen, it will be what I see as the moves that the Raiders will make, although I may or may not agree with them. So, let's get started with the first installment, the coaching staff...

First off, what I think will happen: I believe that Allen will be back next year, but he will not have any more time than that to show that he deserves to continue. Either the team will improve on the field and in the won-loss column, or he will be gone. I know that there are plenty of folks here that don't think that he should return at all, but this is how I see it happening; this is not me saying that he should, but that I think he will.

As for what I think about his return? I am somewhat ambivalent. I think that he has shown that he can develop players, which is an obvious pre-requisite for being a good coach; if you can't improve your players, then you are in the wrong job (hello, Mike Shanahanof the last decade or so). The team seems to have rallied around him, still seems to be playing hard (if not as effectively as we would like), and I think he still has the locker room, all of which are plusses. I don't condone the records of the last two years, but I do see where they were, to a point, if not inevitable, at least foreseeable.

We do not have the worst roster in the league, as some squawking heads claimed before the season. I think that Reggie has done a pretty good job overall in bringing in players who could contribute on a shoestring budget, although it is too soon to tell if the early picks in the last draft will pan out. If they do, great; if not, then that will be a strike against him. The team's starters are competitive; we have seen this in how they were been able to keep games close, especially early in the season. What killed the team as the season rolled on was the horrific slate of injuries that kept many of those same starters off the field for extended periods, exposing the biggest weakness of the team, which is a lack of depth, and the middling or worse talent of the backups, which is due to not having an money to sign better players. Even so, with guys that would be considered scrubs on a number of other teams (if they were able to make the roster at all) the Raiders were still competitive with teams that had much better rosters overall. That has to be considered a plus for the coaching staff.

What appears to be Allen's biggest flaw is his own development; can he improve as a coach as much as he has improved his players? He and his staff have come up with game plans that put the team in a competitive position, but while the adjustments have improved, there are questions as to whether it has been to the level that they need to be in the NFL. Yes, there are other coaches that have had issues with managing the clock, but while that is something that can bite any coach at times, it is another issue that needs to be improved with Allen, as it seems to be more than just an occasional problem. On a team with fewer opportunities to win, it can be argued that clock management is not as important because there are fewer chances to win, or that it is more important because those chances need to be capitalized on. Whichever side one takes, it is something to be evaluated.

As far as the record, I find it hard to judge solely on that, although it does have importance. The reason that I cannot use it as the ultimate measuring stick is that for the last two years, the front office has been cleaning up a tremendous mess, the team having been saddled with bad contracts, large chunks of dead money, a lack of cap flexibility, forced reliability on underperforming (either through lack of effort, advancing age, being overpaid, or any combination thereof) players, and the inability to improve the roster in any real sense. Given the total reconstruction that has been going on, it would be difficult to win regularly even without the injuries that decimated the team and, as I pointed out before, that exposed the real state of our backups, and of our overall depth. Could the record have been better? Yes, there are games that seemed to have gotten away, but the flip side is that the team was in position to win a few more games, something that took some doing from the staff. You can't logically say that the staff sucks because they didn't win more games, when they were in games with a starting roster judged to be one of the worst in the league, much less with the players that were trotted out regularly through the course of the season.

So, to wrap it up, here is what I think of the coaching staff:

HC Allen: I think he will be brought back, which I agree with, but he will be on a make or break year, regardless of injuries. More will be expected of him, and rightly so.

DC Tarver: Hamstrung to a degree by the level of talent, his good schemes ran out of gas along with his players. The problem was that he wasn't able to come up with new schemes or looks that were effective enough to counter the lack of talent and depth on the DL, which slowly bled the defense to death. He will likely be back as well, but he will definitely be under the microscope to be more innovative and effective throughout the season.

OC Olson: Probably the guy having to do the most with the least, what with no real starting QB, injuries at RB, and basically an OL that was so reduced by injury as to be practically unrecognizable. With no continuity, no regular players to build around, and having to keep probably the most effective player in the backfield to help block for a weak OL, that we were able to do much at all is fairly impressive. Still, while I don't feel the need to simply blame him for what happened during the year, I don't think that he can expect more than coming back; he will also be on a make or break year, with the expectation of some results early, and some continued success through the season.

OL Sparano: To me, clearly the best job of coaching this year; whatever award position coaches are in line for, he should win, on the team and in the league. At one point, he was playing third string LT, RT, RG, and second string LG and C at the same time. That the offense was able to score at all was an accomplishment, and a testimony that he had his guys ready, through the entire depth chart. Outstanding job.

DL Williams: Another coach with an very good overall year, as he was mostly given players that have been perennial backups and rotational guys, and made starters out of them, and his backups played more than they would have on most teams. They were fairly effective overall, if not particularly good at providing pressure on the QB; the biggest problem was the lack of depth that wore out guys over the course of the season.

RB Skipper: Another solid job; every player that lined up in the backfield was effective, even with a questionable OL, with the exception of McFadden, who wasn't horrible, but just not that good. I'm looking forward to see what Murray is going to do next year.

LB Sanders: Did well enough, but it seems as though the biggest issue here is the backups aren't all that good. Maieva and the other Burnett didn't show much, although I don't know if that was coaching or simply talent level. Burris still needs plenty of polishing, although he was on IR for much of the year. Moore showed nice improvement.

DB Lynn and Lopez: Another position that is hard to judge coaching because of the injuries and who the backups are; Hayden improved until he was injured, Branch and Young played well until they were hurt, and Porter and Jenkins were not bad, if uneven. The problem is that guys like Ross and Chekwa are really in over their heads; can coaches be held to blame for not being able to get players ready that can't be ready...? I think that these coaches did well enough to be brought back.

TE Hutson: While I understand that Ausberry was out, it took a while for Rivera to do much, with Mastrud able to keep him off the field, and Kasa didn't show up until the end of the season. I know that there were some questions about both, but their learning curve seems to be pretty slow. if that is an issue with the players, that's one thing; otherwise, I have to wonder if the coach is not getting through...

WR Gilmore: I thought that the WR's as a whole made big strides through the year, although drops are still an issue to be worked on. Holmes played better as the year went on, as did Streator, and Moore was more consistent than last year. Butler made some contributions as well. I think that this position is in good hands... lol

QB DeFillipo: Another position that is hard to really tell; while Pryor started off well, he certainly regressed for a number of games. While McGloin didn't do badly, he was stil making some of the same mistakes at the ed of the season that he was when he got the call. Did the QB's learn under DeFillipo, or more from what they did in the offseason (with Pryor) or what they brought from college (McGloin)?

ST April: There was some improvement here, with returns being better on both punts and kickoffs, and coverage improving as well. However, there were still too many big returns, as well as some breakdowns that will have to be considered as well. I still think that we bring it out from deep in the endzone on kickoffs too often, and don't seem to have many more schemes than right up the middle. Better than last year, but more work needs to be done to not be under the gun next year.

Overall, yes, I'd bring back pretty much all of the staff, although there are only a few that have ringing endorsements. Still, that is better than what we have seen on staff for some time. With next year's expected improvements on the roster, through draft and free agency, more than what was seen this year will be expected from some/most of these guys.

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