The question of when to fire a coach or how much time to give him is a tough one — and one without an easy answer. In Cleveland, it seems hard to justify firing a coach after just one season — especially on a team with Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell (all) under center.
What about after two seasons, though?
In Tampa Bay, Greg Schiano got the axe after following up a 7-9 season with a 4-12 mark this season. But what about Dennis Allen? While Schiano regressed after season one, at least Allen can say he was consistent. Unfortunately, though, the Raiders have been consistently bad — winning just eight games in his two seasons at the helm. For Schiano and Allen, however, it's safe to say the situations were markedly different.
Schiano inherited a team with talent all around, including Josh Freeman, LeGarette Blount, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow and Aqib Talib among others. Allen, on the other hand, inherited a train wreck.
Along with bloated contracts for aging veterans, Allen also came into a franchise missing numerous draft picks. Sure, the Raiders were 8-8 before Allen arrived, but the organization had gone all-in in 2011, leaving Allen and the team's future in its wake.
So, should Schiano have been fired and Allen kept? That part is up for debate, but most around the league seem to agree that Allen had more problems to work through, while Schiano had ruffled too many feathers.
My question for Allen is simple: are you the long-term guy?
In his mind, the answer is obviously yes (or at least, "I hope"), but this is a question that general manager Reggie McKenzie better have the answer already.
Much has been made of this off-season in Oakland, in which all of the bad contracts come off the books and the team is left with upwards of $60 million in cap space — not to mention a full slate of draft picks for the first time in three seasons.
The reason this all comes back to Allen is because he's going to be the guy helping shape the future in Oakland. When the team goes out and signs defensive players to fit their scheme, it's Allen's schemes that will be taken into consideration.
When McKenzie adds some new pieces to the offensive side of the ball, it's Allen's offense that will be used to evaluate free agents and rookies. But what if Allen gets one more year to prove himself and we find out he wasn't the answer all along? What if McKenzie decided Allen deserved another season to prove himself and it becomes obvious that the decision to keep him was a mistake?
Then Oakland will be left with a roster full of players signed to fit into a scheme that will be gone with their coach. They'll be left in the same position Allen was in 2012 — with a bunch of guys he didn't bring here and who didn't necessarily fit in with the culture he was trying to create. And what about the flip side: is one season with a entirely new roster enough to evaluate Allen?
If it's unfair to judge Allen based on two seasons with a depleted roster, is it really any more fair to hand him an overhauled roster and expect instant results?
Sure, there will be some players returning, but most of the impact players (one would hope) will be newcomers, brought in from free agency or the college ranks. For them, it will take some time to fit into a new system, a new division and a new coaching staff.
To me, the Raiders have two choices: fire Dennis Allen now, or give him two seasons to try and right the ship. Do I think Oakland is in the best hands possible with Allen for the next two seasons? Not at all, but I also don't think it's fair to anyone — Allen or the franchise as a whole — to give him just one more season with a new roster.
I'm hoping McKenzie sat down and evaluated everything and came to the conclusion that Allen deserved two more seasons as Oakland's head coach — that he deserves the right to help shape a new roster and to see that roster out into fruition.
Of course, Dennis Allen does have two more seasons on his contract, but that's never meant much to an owner wanting to fire his coach...