Who Is Dennis Allen?  Part I:  Young Dennis Pays His Dues

Founder GSEZ

We’re going to take a hard but fair look at Dennis Allen, an obvious potential choice to be the new Saints head coach, in three parts. The first will be a look at the earlier parts of his career, to see if we can get any sense of how he projects as a man to lead an NFL franchise.

Saints first go-round and Denver

After the obligatory (well, less so nowadays if you are the Next Young Genius like Kliff Kingsbury, who has finished the last three seasons a combined 5-17) 10 years or so bouncing around as a post-collegiate journeyman coach, including two years as an assistant DL coach for the Saints, Allen got his first career position coach job when he was promoted to coach the Saints secondary in 2008.

Allen stayed until 2010, coaching one season under Gary Gibbs and two under Gregg Williams, where he helped win a Super Bowl, got a quick variety of useful experience (Gibbs was hardly a terrible DC, by the way), and picked up a reputation as a promising young NFL coach.

Based on what looked like limited experience at the time, he was then hired by Sean Payton’s friend John Fox (presumably on the strength of Payton) as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos for 2011, and the Broncos finished 20th in defense….after finishing 20th the previous year. 

With Allen now having just four years total senior coaching experience and one as DC, I don’t think it’s fair to try to make any meaningful conclusions about how he’d project as a head coach at that point, but none of that stopped the Oakland Raiders from hiring him as their head coach for the 2012 season.

The Oakland Saga

Allen was the coach of the Raiders for 2012-13 and the first four games of 2014, when he was fired after an 0-4 start and finished with a dismal 8-28 record.

Yes, a complete disaster.  And no, it’s not possible to judge him off any of it:

  • He inherited a talent base that had gone 30-50 in the previous seven seasons; talk about long-term deterioration;
  • He was the seventh Raiders HC in 10 years;
  • Longtime Raiders owner Al Davis had just died the previous season;
  • Reggie McKenzie, the GM who hired him, was in the middle of his seven-year tenure in which the team went 40-72 (including one 12-4 season, which leaves 28-68 for the other six), after which he’s not had a meaningful NFL job;
  • The quarterbacks they gave him were Carson Palmer (who promptly left), Terrell Pryor, Mark McGloin, Matt Flynn, and rookie Derek Carr;
  • From 2012-2014 the Raiders had ONE player in the Pro Bowl each year:  the same guy, Marcel Reece, the…..fullback;
  • From the 2009-2013 drafts (where he should have gotten his best players), the Raiders drafted 39 players, all of whom together among them had exactly 71 seasons as an NFL starter, with most of these guys never good enough to start a single NFL game.

Folks, this is YOUR 1967-1974 New Orleans Saints!

If you can tell me what kind of head coach can do anything with that, god love you.  The only thing I figured out from it is that no matter the circumstances, Dennis Allen is unlikely to do anything rash to hurt himself or others, no matter how understandable that path might be.

The one thing from this:  he’s been in the hot seat before, and now presumably has at least some handle on the responsibilities, the complexity and the pressures that come with the job. 

In Part II, we’ll look at Dennis Allen as the Saints Defensive Coordinator.