By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders have had an interesting relationship with their head coaches over the years. Since Hall of Fame offensive tackle Art Shell was fired as head coach the first time in 1994, the team has gone through 10 coaches in 20 seasons—including a second go-around stint for Shell himself in 2006.
Clearly, leading the Silver & Black is one of the most unforgiving jobs in the NFL today, but the team’s inability to find stability at the head coach position is one of the main reasons the Raiders continue to struggle. They’re off to an 0-3 start again this year, of course, and with an 8-27 record in his two-plus seasons on the job, it’s easy to question how long Dennis Allen will remain with the Oakland organization in his current capacity.
If the Raiders lose a winnable Week 4 matchup against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, will that be the end for Allen’s tenure? If so, where does Oakland go from there?
Sooner or later, the Raiders need to fix what is broken with a franchise that hasn’t won a Super Bowl in more than 30 years after winning three titles in an eight-year span from 1976-83. And it’s not just about the coaching, of course.
But not all great coaches win right away in the NFL. Famously, current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll was fired from two NFL jobs in the 1990s before finding success at the collegiate level with USC and parlaying that into a third NFL opportunity—which he has now maximized with a Super Bowl win.
If the Raiders lose and decide to cut ties with Allen, can they find the next Pete Carroll out there?
There’s no point in exploring potential hires when the Raiders still have a coach—and the Silver & Black may win this weekend, thus putting off any potential coaching changes until the next crisis of confidence rears its ugly head in Oakland.
Allen has been saddled with bad rosters since he took over the team, and perhaps it would be unfair to cut him loose without giving him a real chance to succeed. But that brings about the question: How does a Raiders head coach get a real chance to succeed?
Mike White replaced Art Shell in 1995, and he was fired after two seasons (15-17). Joe Bugel got one season (4-12) before moving on. Jon Gruden never had a losing season in four years at the helm in Oakland, but then he was infamously traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bill Callahan took Gruden’s team to the Super Bowl, but lost to Gruden’s Bucs, badly—he went 4-12 in his second season and was gone.
Norv Turner went 9-23 in two years; Shell went 2-14 in his brief return. Lane Kiffin didn’t even make it through two seasons, and then Tom Cable got the team back to 8-8 in 2010 before being fired. Hue Jackson? He went 8-8 as well in his only season, before being let go.
Will Allen fare any better than his nine predecessors? Only time will tell, but perhaps if Gruden were the coach today, he would have been fired after his first two seasons (16 wins, 16 losses)—and the Raiders never would have known the brief glory they experienced in 2000-02.
Does Allen deserve that same chance? At times, the Raiders have seemed very close to turning the corner—like in Week Three against the New England Patriots when they seemed to tie the game late in the fourth quarter before disaster struck (twice).
If Allen wants that opportunity to continue, he should probably make sure the Raiders win on Sunday, though, because no one likes an 0-4 start.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.