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Digesting HC Allen’s interviews at Owners Meeting

All eyes in the NFL world have turned to Florida this week for the annual NFL Owner’s Meeting which started Monday.  There are many things that come out from the meeting. 

This year’s compensatory picks were announced on Monday and there is also information on what rules changes the Competition Committee considered, here.

The owners also finalized and approved the penalties imposed upon Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins for dumping contract money into the uncapped year in 2010.

Another benefit to the Owners Meeting, for fans, is that most teams GMs and HCs also converge to have meetings.  The Owners Meeting is frequently a great time to hear from an organizations’ leaders

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen spoke with the media for the first time since his hiring this week, first on Sirius radio and then, yesterday, at the coaches’ breakfast.

First, the Sirius radio interview which mostly concerned his thoughts on the penalties imposed upon the Saints.  He was the secondary coach in New Orleans in 2009, the first year that the Saints hired DC Gregg Williams and the start of the bounty program that got the Saints into the mess they are in.

There is a transcript of the pertinent section of the interview, here.

The question was whether he could shed any light on what people were talking about in terms of the bounties and, basically, how he felt about them and he answered the second part of the question explaining that he thinks it’s an unfortunate situation and that he feels for the people involved while also stating he supports the Commissioner.

The conversation then turned to how he will coach his own team to stay away from playing too physically and within the rules and then into some more general questions about how he expects his team to respond this season.

The most obvious questions – “Where you aware of the bounties?” and “Where you involved with the bounties?” – were left unasked.  This is likely not just a mental lapse on the part of the Sirius hosts but a specific agreement to not ask these questions.

It is common for bargaining on what is okay to ask and what is not okay to ask to occur before a potential interview takes place.  In this instance that likely would have gone through the Raiders PR dept and it was likely communicated that Allen would not agree to the interview unless they left those questions unasked.

It’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to answer those questions.  An answer of yes is self incriminating and could open him up to a penalty from the league.  An answer of no would probably open a fire-storm of questions about the denial, which would be unlikely, at best.  If the Saints’ bounty program is as pervasive as reported, it’s almost impossible he weren’t aware of it to some level.

The second interview was at the coaches breakfast yesterday.  A transcript of that discussion can be found here.

A lot of it’s simply sound bites on Manning coming to the AFC West or talking about who his mentors were.  Not that that isn’t important but there isn’t anything in those questions that needs discussed, here.

What is somewhat interesting is when he’s asked more about what their plans are.

For example, he stated that he and McKenzie “both feel the best way to build the program is to build through the draft, develop young players. That’s how you sustained continued success in this league. And that’s really what our philosophy’s going to be, to really try to acquire and develop young talent.”

He talked up McKenzie, who is still an unknown commodity, never having been a GM before, saying, “I think what people are really finding out about Reggie is that he is a true personnel man. He understands personnel, he understands how to deal with players, and I think he’s done a great job under the circumstances, trying to acquire talent and to try to find fits for our organization.”

He further said that he thinks that Reggie’s even temperament is an asset to the GM position.  He said, “I think you really have to make tough decisions at times and when you let emotions get in the way too much, sometimes those decisions get clouded a little bit. I think being even-keel is a good thing.”

Allen did say that they are going to make use of the extra time with players the team is allowed due to having a new head coach.  Specifically, they are going to have the players in next week on Monday, April 2nd to start the offseason program.

He also placed the first mini-camp as starting Tuesday, April 17th.

There are some who are advocating that the Raiders trade Darren McFadden for as high a pick as they can.  It doesn’t sound like Allen is one of those people.  He was asked about who excites him and, unsolicited, he mentioned McFadden, stating, “I think Darren McFadden is someone I’m excited about, still a developing player. When you look at our team, we really have some young talent that has a chance to grow. How you can sustain success in this league is to develop young players.”

He also mentioned Tyvon Branch and Rolando McClain as young players he was excited about.  He specifically mentioned that there was a reason that McClain was drafted so high.  Implicitly, it sounds like he believes that Rolando may not have been utilized correctly and is hoping his schemes can take advantage of McClain’s skill set.

Interestingly, Allen addressed something that we’ve discussed at TFDS in comments and in posts – that much of the problems with the Raiders is systemic and stemmed from the disorganization of the franchise and the from the way that Mr. Davis ran things.

Allen addressed his biggest challenges by saying, “I think the biggest challenge is that because the leadership has been the way it’s been done for so long, people are used to doing things one way. I think the biggest challenge is just getting people within the organization to open up the thought process to doing things another way. There are different ways to do things in this league. I think everyone within the organization has been open and receptive to conforming to the way Reggie and I are trying to do things.”

He further said that he and McKenzie want to “foster an organization that’s based on trust, honesty, integrity, doing the right things, doing it the right way. Those are things that both Reggie and I believe in. That’s the way we’re going to run that organization. We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to do things in a first-class manner. We’re going to build a team that’s going to be tough, smart, disciplined. Just like I talked about doing the right things within the organization, that’s the way we’re going to do it as a team.”

He stated his offensive philosophy is to run the ball and run consistently on offense.  Then, to be explosive on offense.  That sounds very similar to what the Raiders have been trying to do for years, actually.  Setting up big passing plays by having success rushing the ball so that safeties move close to the line allowing WRs to get behind the defense.  The pieces are in place for the Raiders to be able to do this, if they execute well.  That philosophy is similar to what Hue ran last season.

Finally, Allen said he hadn’t decided on whether to be base 4-3 or 3-4, yet.  That’s well and good and there’s no reason for him to make that final decision at this time but the Raiders don’t have the pieces on the team to be a base 3-4 this season.  They have two LBs on the team that have ever played a down in an actual NFL game, not preseason.

All in all, an interesting interview.  Allen comes across as an open and honest coach.  He isn’t abrasive and also is fairly measured in his responses.  That is to his credit as it’s a difficult line to pull off.

For more Raiders talk throughout the day, or to ask me questions or tell me what you think, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews