Q&A with Raiders head coach Dennis Allen


Q&A with Raiders head coach Dennis Allen

Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen had his media conference at the NFL Combine this morning and was asked about Oakland's contracts, Darren McFadden's future and the Raiders' lack of draft picks.'s Matt Maiocco is in Indianapolis and attended the presser. Following, then, is a transcript of Allen's Q&A, provided by Maiocco...Question: The Raiders were talking to a lot of linebackers and Defensive ends at the Senior Bowl, Kamerion Wimbley has contract issues, where are you with that?Allen: I think obviously, defensively, that is going to be a priority for us. I think I was really pleased with what the Raiders were able to do last year offensively. I know from having to defend against them, they were a real challenge to defend. Defensively, if you look at the defensive rankings, not too different than what the situation I came into last year with Denver. So its obviously a high priority for us and weve got to get better in that area.
Q: Where do things stand with Wimbley, Michael Huff, players that may or may not have contract issues?A: Right now, with all those guys, were looking at all our options and what we have to do from a financial standpoint to make sure we put ourselves in the best position to get the best players out there and be on our final 53-man roster. So between Reggie and myself, were working through all those scenarios right now.Q: Expect more changes besides Stanford Routt?A: Well, there will obviously be changes, I dont know what those changes will be yet. Those are all the scenarios that were going through right now.Q: Where are things with Michael Bush, franchise tag candidate?A: Again, were going to look at all those options. I wont get into the specifics of exactly what were going to do and exactly what our plan is going to be, but I will tell you this, but we will look at all of our existing free agents, were going to look at all of our existing players that are under contract that have high numbers and were going to evaluate what we need to do to give the organization a chance to be successful.Q: Are you excited about going up against the Broncos twice a year?A: I think Im excited about going up against everybody next year. I wouldnt single them out any differently. I obviously have a lot of respect for what theyve done over there. I think John Elway, Brian Xanders, John Fox, do a tremendous job and I know theyll have the team ready to play whenever we go up against them and well do our best to have our team ready to play going up against them.Q: you mentioned at the press conference that you think too much is made of 4-3, 3-4 system. Have you identified a primary base defense or is that something you're working through?A: Those are really all the things were still working through. Well see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful. I would expect that well be very multiple in that regard.Q: What can you tell us about Jason Tarver, your choice for Defensive Coordinator?A: I think Jason Tarver is an extremely bright young coach. He was a part of the San Francisco 49ers defenses, and I thought they were extremely well coached, extremely talented, when I interviewed Jason, there was no doubt in my mind that this is a guy who had answers for everything. Im extremely excited about working with him, and I think, with him and the defensive staff as well as myself being involved in the defense, Im excited about our opportunities.Q: How hands on will you be with the defense?A: Ill be involved. Ill be involved in both aspects of the team. Offense, defense, special teams, all of it. But I would say, especially this first year, Ill probably spend a little bit more time with the defense.Q: Thoughts on the development of Rolando McClain?A: He was a guy that was picked real high in the draft, and I still see a lot of talent in Rolando McClain. I got a chance to speak with him the other day. I think hes excited about coming in, and being involved with the new regime. Were going to give him every opportunity to prove that hes the type of player that hes capable of being. I think if hes willing to come in and work and do the things we ask him to do, hell reach that potential.Q: Greg Knapps offenses featured a lot of bootlegs, zone blocking, can Carson Palmer fit with Knapps scheme?A: I think absolutely he can fit. And I also think that part of what we do as coaches is we have a system that were going to run, but were going to try and put our players in the best position for them to be successful. Were not going to force-feed something if it doesnt fit what a guy does really well, were not going to force-feed that. But I do think when you look at Carson Palmer, that he does have the same type of athleticism. Hes as athletic as Matt Schaub, who they had in Houston, to really be really be able to run that same package.Q: Did you want to speak about Ed Donatell about a spot on your staff?A: There are a lot of people that I considered, that I had on my list, and Ed would have been one of those guys that I had on my list, but I think once I had an opportunity to really sit down and talk to Jason, there was no question in my mind that he was the guy.Q: When did you start getting into the draft?A: Well, I spent the first couple of weeks trying to put together a coaching staff, so it was just really recently that weve really kind of gotten involved in the draft. We had the free agents that we had to evaluate as a coaching staff, and were kind of in the introductory process of getting ready for the draft.Q: Is it less of a priority because you have so few picks?A: No, I dont think so. I told the coaching staff the other day, the most important thing that we can be doing right now is picking players, and making sure we got the right guys on our team, and so the offensive scheme, the defensive scheme, thats going to take care of itself, but weve got to make sure weve got the right guys to be a part of this football team, so theres nothing more important to us right now than making sure we get the right guys.Q: How is McFaddens foot, any chance he wouldnt be back next year?A: Not as far as Im concerned. I think hes an extremely dynamic player. Again, from playing the Oakland Raiders twice last year, they were much more challenging to defend when Darren McFadden was in the backfield, and having that kind of two-headed monster between him and Bush, that was a real challenge. Darren is a vital part of what were going to try and get done next year.Q: Is his foot better?A: Yes, his foot is better. He was back in town, working out last week, and we got a good evaluation on him. Darren will be ready to go whenever we get ready to kick off the season, thats for sure.Q: McFadden and his chronic foot problems, anything the organization has looked at, practice fields, etc.?A: Were looking at everything within the organization, how we can improve in every aspect of the organization, and obviously practice fields is one of the things that were looking at. Is there something we can do to improve that, and is their a co-relation between the foot injuries and the practice fields. If we can deduce there is a co-relation between the two well do everything we can to get them right.Q: Matt Shaughnessy, Jacoby Ford, theyre good to go?A: Absolutely, theyll be ready to roll.Q: With Routt gone, there any chance free safety Michael Huff moves to cornerback?A: Again, that question is to be determined after we find out exactly who we have on the team to find out what are options are. The one thing do I do know about Michael Huff is hes an extremely good athlete and he has skills athletically of a corner, and so that obviously would be an option for us, but again, we wont make any decisions along those lines until we know exactly what we got.Q: How would you describe first couple of months on the job? Anything unexpected, surprises?A: Fast. Fast. Well, I think one of the things that you find out as a head football coach is that its difficult to put together a good staff, because theres a lot of guys that you might want to try to get that you cant get out of other contracts and different roadblocks and hurdles that you got to jump over, but I think we weathered that storm and the one thing that I wanted to make sure that we did, was I didnt want to rush into anything or hurry into anything, and I think having that patience allowed us to put together a good staff.Q: Performance of offensive line last year part of the reason Steve Wisniewski was retained, for continuity?A: Yeah, I think keeping some of that continuity within the offensive line. I think there was an element there that we wanted some people that did have some knowledge of the Raiders organization and the way that things have been done in the past, and I think hes obviously, I wouldnt say hes a bright young coach, but Id say hes a bright and up and coming coach and I was really impressed with him when I met him for the very first time.Q: Raiders of past reputation for putting emphasis on speed. Whats your feeling on where 40 time fits into player evaluation?A: It only fits after we find out whether this guy on tape when we look at him, if we feel like hes a good football player. Thats where 40 times come into effect. If you got two guys that when you look at the tape, these guys are about the same football playing wise, well lets take the faster guy. But were not going to take guys just because they run real fast. Because that doesnt co-relate to being a good football player.Q: How much of the team do you think youve actually spoken to, guys under contract?A: Ive probably spoken to about 75 percent of the team, and I think everybody is really excited about getting in and getting started and being a part of the offseason program and being a part of what were going to try and do and how were going to be a little bit different.Q: Richard Seymour part of long-term plan?A: Weve spoken with Richard, and hes excited about the opportunity, and Richard is obviously part of our plans and we feel real good about Richard.Q: With penalties such a big issue, how do you clear that up?A: I think the first and foremost thing is guys have to be held accountable for their actions. Thats always what I believed in, and I think now with the organizational structure I feel about our ability to hold our guys accountable to do the right things, for the right reasons and doing it that way all the time. And well preach that message and preach that message, and well hold guys accountable to doing it the right way.Q: How have you and Reggie McKenzie worked together putting things together?A: First and foremost, I think our relationship has been outstanding. Weve discussed every situation that comes up, weve always discussed it. Ive come to him with questions about coaching staff, hes come to me with questions about personnel issues, and I think thats the way you run a top quality organization, when your head coach and your general manager can see eye to eye, and can have conversations, and we might not always agree, but at the end of the day weve got to make sure we can come to the best decision for the Raiders and thats what Im excited about working with Reggie, because hes a top quality human being and I think hes an excellent talent evaluator.Later, after finishing at the podium, Allen spoke with a gaggle of reporters. Following is that exchangeQ: How do you create your own culture while showing respect to the Raiders tradition?A: I think that's, first and foremost, what you have to be able to recognize and understand is that not everything was bad. There are a lot of good qualities about the Raiders organization. And I understand that and I respect that. What we have to do is, just like anything else, you try to keep what was good and you try to improve on what might not have been as good. That's where we're at and what we're trying to do. We're going through that balancing act and find out who are those high-quality people within the organization and let them shine. That's what Reggie and I are trying to do.Q: What comes to mind when you think about the good things?A: There are obviously some bright people in the organization. I think they've done a really good job within the organization of putting together some top-quality people that really know what they're doing. I think Marc Badain in finance has done a really good job. I think he's a top-quality guy. There are several things I think is good about the organization.Q: With the salary cap issues, how do you feel about being able to bring in what you need?A: I think, obviously, we got some work to do. But I feel confident in our ability to do that. Again, Reggie is an excellent talent evaluator and we're going to have to work hard to find guys who fit our system. We might not go out and make the big explosion, big name in free agency. But, then again, it's not always the big name who has the biggest impact. So we're looking for guys, no matter what their name is, or what their contract might be, we're looking for guys who can have an impact in the organization and an impact on our team.Q: What about the challenge of the salary cap and so few draft picks?A: I would say challenges is the proper word. It's nothing that can't be overcome. And I think we look forward to the challenge. Nothing in life that is ever worth anything comes easy. We really feel that way. Somebody told a long time ago that tough times don't last but tough people do. That's what we're trying to do. We're going to everything we can to put the best team on the field. Whatever those challenges that might come our way, we're going to have to navigate through them.Q: What does your offseason look like? When will you be able to get your hands on your guys?A: April 2 is the first time players can be in for new head coaches. That's when we'll expect to have a full load of players in and get an opportunity to start working with them and start talking football.Q: Is that a date you're looking forward to?A: Absolutely. That's why we're in this business because of the players and getting an opportunity to work with them.Q: McFadden in the past has expressed a liking to quick-hitting plays and Greg Knapp runs a lot of one-cut zone stuff?A: We're going to give him the opportunity to be successful. Whatever gives him that opportunity, that's what we're going to do. I will say this, when you look at the running games that Greg has been a part of, they've all been very successful with a lot of different of styles of runners. And even look at what Darren was able to do a couple years ago really running the same scheme with Tom Cable. I think Darren McFadden will be successful in any type of running game that you put him in because he's that explosive.Q: He has skills as a receiver that haven't totally been exploited yet, is that something Greg will look for?A: Again, we're going to try to put him in the best positions for him to be successful. We're going to try to get our best football players the ball, however that might be.Q: Was it disappointing not to be able to bring some of the Broncos assistants with you?A: Yeah, but you know what? I totally understand the situation, and that's the rules of the game that we play by. So just got to accept it and move on and I can't say that I would've done anything differently than what they did.Q: How many did you want to bring from Denver?A: There was a couple. (Richard Smith) was one that I wanted to try to talk to.Q: How did Jason Tarver get on your radar?A: Jason Tarver got on the radar screen, I've know Jason for a long time. He and I have followed each other for a while. I talked to Greg Manusky and as we were talking in there, Jason was one of those guys I was also looking at. I just think the guy's a real smart, innovative football coach.

Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’


Will a Gruden-Lynch partnership work? ‘Guys like him interest me’

Jon Gruden asked to speak with Marshawn Lynch several times but got turned down.

His job title earned an automatic veto. The enigmatic running back doesn’t talk to the press, even a Monday Night Football analyst with Gruden’s street cred. No production meetings, no insight flowing outside the inner circle.

Lynch must honor the next request. Gruden’s his boss, after all.

“I’m anxious to sit down with Marshawn and meet him,” the new Raiders head coach said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. “We’ll talk about his future and the Raiders. I can’t wait. He came back to the Raiders for similar, I think, reasons that I did. I think he loves Oakland. I think he loves the Raiders and guys like him interest me, so I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

The veteran running back and Oakland native has a year left on a two-year deal struck last April. The 2018 payouts, per, include a $4 million base salary, a $250,000 workout bonus, a $1 million roster bonus and $750,000 in per-game roster bonuses. There are also significant performance-based incentives.

Marshawn is under contract, but also has some say in this matter. He could post an image of cleats hanging on a telephone wire like he did after the 2016 Super Bowl and call it a career. Lynch made it clear in a rare press conference that he didn’t miss football. He returned for the opportunity to play in front of a East Bay community he champions and bring attention to his significant charitable efforts.

There are several possible outcomes from the Gruden/Lynch tete-a-tete. Gruden might not consider him worth the while. Lynch may walk away, for good this time. Or, the two could traverse 2018 together.

Predicting Marshawn’s movements is a fool’s errand. We can, however, make an educated pros and cons list. Let’s take a look at some factors influencing the ultimate outcome.


-- The phrase in Gruden’s last sentence above may have tipped his hand: “Guys like him interest me.” Lynch is an intense presence, one of his generation’s most physical runners. Gruden can use on-field talents like him, though it’s uncertain whether he’s a perfect fit in an offense that has certainly evolved during nine years in the broadcast booth.

Also, Gruden loves Oakland. Lynch loves Oakland. That may be a good starting point.

-- Marshawn still has it. The 31-year old was the Raiders’ most productive skill player in 2017’s second half. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the last season games, totaling 625 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also had at least 92 yards total offense in five of those contests. When he’s motivated and healthy – he didn’t miss a single practice with injury – Lynch can be a force on the ground

-- Gruden reportedly hired Tom Cable as offensive line coach a few days back. That’s probably a plus from Lynch’s perspective. Cable was Seattle offensive line coach, and heavily involved in the running game, during Lynch’s best seasons. He ran a system that fit Lynch well, though Gruden said schemes will be based around team strengths. Lynch and Cable reportedly get along well, and could be a major reason why Lynch finds it appetizing to return.

-- Lynch carried locker room clout. Last year’s coaching staff didn’t love him, but player certainly did.


-- Lynch comes with some baggage. He’s an eccentric sort who does his own thing, at times without regard for small rules. That may rub Gruden and staff the wrong way. It certainly bothered Del Rio’s crew, especially when he seemed to have his own set of rules.

The Raiders tolerated Lynch’s choice to sit during the national anthem all year, despite being vocal against such actions the year before. He also had a production crew following him around quite often, especially in camp.

He got suspended for sticking up for the other team in Week 7, protecting great friend, Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in an on-field altercation. He then practiced with his old high school during the suspension.

Gruden may not love the prospect of dealing with extra weight, depending on how strict he plans to be during this coaching tenure.

-- Lynch turns 32 in April. While Lynch might be an exception, running backs often fall off a production cliff in their early 30s. Can the Raiders get good value from Lynch at that age, knowing full well another running back might be added to the roster?

-- Lynch may simply not be into another year in Oakland. He enjoyed taking 2016 off, travelling the world and increasing charitable and business endeavors. Is his drive still strong?

Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff


Report: Former Raiders head coach returning to join Gruden's staff

Jon Gruden isn’t the only Raiders head coach returning to the Silver and Black.

Tom Cable’s on the way, albeit in a lesser role. Gruden already has the top job. Cable’s coming back, NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon, as offensive line coach.

He occupied that role in Oakland from 2007 until he assumed the head coach role when Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the 2008 season. The interim tag was lifted in 2009, and he coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2010.

He followed that feat with the now famous quote, “We’re not losers anymore.” The Raiders had seven straight losing seasons before finishing .500 in what would be Cable’s last season with the club. He was 17-27 in two-plus seasons as Raiders head coach.

He went to Seattle after that, and spent seven seasons as Seahawks assistant head coach in charge of the offensive line. He also worked extensively with Marshawn Lynch during the rusher’s salad days in Seattle.

Cable returning to the Raiders seemed highly unlikely after late owner Al Davis detailed Cable’s misgivings in a post-firing press conference. Cable was allegedly involved in a 2009 incident where then Raiders assistant Randy Hanson was left with a broken jaw. ESPN also aired a report where three women accused Cable of domestic violence. One of Cable’s accusers sued Cable and named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis docked Cable’s pay in relation to that litigation.

Cable is a respected position coach, though the Seahawks offensive line has fallen on hard times. He and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were fired after a disappointing season where the Seahawks missed the postseason.

Offensive line coach was a top priority as Gruden built a staff. Cable is known for using a zone blocking scheme, though it remains uncertain what he’ll use in Oakland with a powerful, expensive offensive front locked in place save the right tackle spot.