Coming into the season, the expectations for Dennis Allen and the Oakland Raiders were low — like, top 5 pick in the 2014 draft low.
In fact, while Oakland lacked talent at important positions across the roster, many people wondered whether Dennis Allen was fit to be a head coach in this league. It's impossible to blame Allen for the roster he inherited — especially at the quarterback position — but the fact remained that as an unproven coach, folks needed to see more from Allen in order to justify keeping him around much longer.
When Allen was hired, Oakland was at one of the lowest points in franchise history and the job was less appealing than many Oakland fans would like to admit.
The big names were never in the realm of possibility for the Raiders, and so, like they had with their previous hires, the Raiders were left with up-and-coming coordinators with no head-coaching experience.
While a hot commodity in the coaching world, Allen was likely a year or two away from earning a head job anywhere else in the league. Folks around the league liked him, but with just one year as a coordinator in the NFL (and nine as a defensive assistant), it wasn't the easiest sell in the world to defend the decision of hiring Allen.
But, with Oakland circling the drain as a franchise — one without a first round draft pick, a bloated salary cap and a front office fiasco — Allen was just about the best they could do.
Fast-forward a couple years, and Oakland appears to have things figured out — due in part to the job that Allen has done.
But has he done too good of a job?
Lets say Oakland finishes the season with seven wins — an idea that's reasonable considering they play just two of their last nine games against teams with more than four wins. If that's the case, Oakland could probably justify firing Allen if they wanted to.
Now, the natural reaction is obvious: if Allen gets this team to seven wins, would Oakland really let him go?
The answer might surprise you.
With seven wins this season, a young quarterback in Pryor and some nice pieces spread across the roster, the Oakland job is far more attractive now than it was two seasons ago. While Allen has done a good job of maximizing the roster he's been given, it's tough to argue that a proven commodity couldn't come in and do more with the same pieces.
Take Kansas City, for example. Sure, they've added some nice pieces this off-season, but the job Andy Reid has done can't be discounted for a second.
So what can Allen do to ensure he gets to keep his job for at least another season?
For starters, he needs to do better in games like the one Sunday against Pittsburgh.
Yes, Oakland won a game they were underdogs in, but the Raiders nearly blew a 21-3 lead at home despite two missed field goals from Pittsburgh.
If Allen wants to keep his job, he needs to win games like that but he needs to do it comfortably. He needs to rack up some impressive wins, beat the teams he's supposed to and not leave any questions as to why this team has improved so much.
I came into this season doubting that Allen was the guy for the job, but with the rag-tag group of players he has been handed, the fact that Oakland could approach a .500 record is mind-blowing. And a lot of that credit goes to Allen's ability to motivate this team.
So what will Oakland do? If the job becomes attractive enough, could Oakland look for a more proven commodity? Or will Allen be the one reaping the rewards of a successful season under his watch?