One of the storylines heading into the Raiders season opener in New Orleans is the familiar face on the opposing coaching staff. Dennis Allen was the first head coach of the Raiders new regime, lasting four games into his third season in Oakland, before being fired.
Not long after his release, he joined the Saints, taking over for Rob Ryan (a former Raiders defensive coordinator as it happens) as defensive coordinator. Ryan coached the Saints defense which was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons, so there was definitely a lot of room for improvement.
The Raiders know all too well the pitfalls of facing former coaches. Facing their old coach, Jon Gruden, in the Super Bowl the year after he was traded away sticks with people. So, naturally, the idea of Dennis Allen knowing how to exploit Derek Carr’s weaknesses as his former head coach comes to mind.
But this is a very different situation. Allen coached Carr for his first offseason, training camp, and first four games as a rookie. Since then, Carr has grown as a player. Not only that, there is an entirely new coaching staff in place. There is a good deal that has separated the two of them since their time together that first season.
“I think that would be very overrated,” said Saints head coach Sean Payton. “Hopefully we know Derek based on all the film study and all the games, just like they would know Drew [Brees]. . . I don’t think that factors in, really. At times, personnel overall might, when you’re dealing with an entire roster but I don’t think specifically, especially at starting quarterback.”
Derek Carr has said he is thankful for Dennis Allen as his first NFL head coach and giving him the starting job from day one. But this week they are opponents. And any knowledge Allen once had of his tendencies is far enough in the past that it won’t give him an advantage.
“Two years makes a lot of difference,” said Carr. “I had some definite weaknesses my rookie year that I had to work on and hopefully I’ve gotten better at those.”
That works both ways too. It’s been two years for Carr as well. Back then he was focused so heavily on succeeding as an NFL starting quarterback, he didn’t have time to focus on what Dennis Allen’s tendencies were as a defensive minded head coach.
I think there are certain areas where both Allen and Carr may have insight others into each other that most don’t. More so Allen with regard to Carr than the other way around. But this is not an altogether unusual occurrence. Both teams’ head coaches have been around a long time and they know this quite well.
“That’s the nature of our business, right?,” said Del Rio. “There are players and coaches you’ve either coached with or played for or played with on different organizations. I started there myself [in New Orleans] both as a player and as a coach, so I have family there myself. But, no, I don’t think there’s a whole lot. We’re busy preparing for this opponent and we’re looking forward to the match-up.”
“There are a lot of things that you have to be prepared for, defensively,” said Sean Payton. “I think really when you look at games now, you can find players from former teams, coaches from former teams and I don’t think that’s as big of a deal as maybe it’s made out to be.”
Is there a competitive advantage to be had in this? Possibly. Allen can impart a lot of insight to his defense about how to attack Derek Carr. And for that reason, there’s no quarterback in this league he’s more prepared to face. Will it be a major deciding factor? Probably not. But it still makes for an interesting chess match that will play out on the field Sunday.