With the Oakland Raiders having gone 4-12 two seasons in a row, head coach Dennis Allen had been thought by some to be on the hot seat since Week 10 of last season. While it wasn’t the case then, it is now.
According to a report from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, Allen might have only two more weeks to prove his worth.
Even Raiders fans who are relieved by the prospect need to consider the one lingering question: Who would replace him?
That’s not an easy one to answer.
The most obvious answer, for the interim, is offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
Sparano coached the Miami Dolphins from 2009 to 2011, and posted records of 7-9 his first two seasons and 6-10 in his last. Outside of Allen, Sparano is the only member of the Raiders organization with any head coaching experience.
Another question would come after: Is Sparano the right man for the long-term?
Smart money says no, which isn’t a knock on Sparano. The Raiders need an innovator, someone who can light something up and keep it from being extinguished.
One potential candidate seems an intriguing choice: Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh turned the 49ers around, and is a guru to quarterback gurus. While the 49ers had solid personnel when he stepped in the door, Harbaugh was able to help his players realize their potential.
The 49ers have been unable to extend Harbaugh, though they’ll have some time to do so. Or, the 49ers can trade Harbaugh like the Raiders did Jon Gruden, something that was rumored last season.
Harbaugh and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke have been feuding for quite some time, and it’d make sense that Baalke hasn’t allowed Harbaugh a proper seat in the draft room. Baalke also yet hasn’t afforded Harbaugh a serious weapon on offense, save for Colin Kaepernick.
Another possible candidate could be Stanford Head Coach David Shaw.
Shaw took over for Harbaugh at Stanford, and while he has gone on the record stating that he’ll remain with the Cardinal for as long as he is welcome, a real offer from an NFL team could certainly change that.
Shaw is 38-8 over four season, and Stanford has only become stronger under his direction. He previously served as offensive coordinator under Harbaugh.
Both could help change the Raiders offense, which is being led by a solid-looking rookie quarterback. The two are premium candidates, though it would seem unrealistic for the two to lead the Raiders during the 2014 season.
Another name to watch is Tony Dungy, who helped the Indianapolis Colts to their only Super Bowl victory in the past 40 years.
Dungy is currently out of work, though it’s not for anything bad. He stepped down from his position with Indy to become a family man, something the NFL doesn’t really allow men to be.
Dungy’s all-time record is third-best in league history, just behind former Raiders head coach John Madden.
Jon Gruden is a name that will continuously enter the fray when it comes to potential candidates and the Oakland Raiders.
During an interview earlier in 2014 on 95.7 The Game, former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon had this to say:
“I think he’s gonna coach. I think he wants to coach, but he’s in a great situation. He’s making a ton of money at ESPN, he’s watching his kids grow up, he’s getting to spend more time around the home which I think has been important to him and to Cindy. But trust me, I’ve had conversations with him. We seem to have them every off-season. He talks about he still has a desire to come back and coach and how competitive he is. And you know what’s interesting is he still loves the Raiders.”
What’s more, Gruden himself expressed his desire to return to coaching during a Monday Night Football showing between the Raiders and Denver Broncos:
“I do have the ambition to coach someday. … I do get the itch a lot. I miss it tremendously. I grew up with the Raiders. Even though my dad didn’t coach for the Raiders, I grew up a Raider fan and yes, absolutely I consider myself a Raider. You should see my house. I got a nice little room where you would think I’m still with the Raiders. A Raider room. I got a lot of old memorabilia. . . I like the mystique of the Raiders and I like being a part of it.”
Could Gruden return immediately, though?
Really, it’s unrealistic to think, barring a big trade, that any coach would be comfortable stepping in from the outside during the middle of the year.
And beyond Sparano, the list is short. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo are there. And that’s the end.
But the coaching carousel might not end at head coach, and it shouldn’t if the Raiders can’t win.
Mike Singletary remains my favorite to potentially take over at defensive coordinator. Sure, his luck wasn’t great with the 49ers. And no, he’s not really head coach material. But he is a superior defensive mind. While with the 49ers, he turned their defense into a top unit. While with the Bears, he did the same thing.
And the story doesn’t change when Singletary was with the Baltimore Ravens.
If there was a wager on which NFL coach could help maximize the potential of linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack, Singletary gets top odds.
Beyond the mentioned names, it’s a crapshoot. But if the Raiders can’t begin being reasonable competitive, it’s sure to happen.
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