There I was sitting at one of the designated media tables at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. NFL head coach, after general manager, after team owner stepped up to the podium.
As soon as I saw Dennis Allen walk in with his silver and black striped tie, I jumped up.
Allen was the Denver Broncos sixth defensive coordinator in six years, and brought a defense that was a dreadful 31st against the rush and 25th against the pass in 2010 to a defense that was more respectable against the rush (22nd) and against the pass (18th). His defense also kept the team in games by holding opponents to low scores. In 2010, the team was dead last in scoring defense. In 2011, Allen helped raise them to 20th in the league.
I really wanted to see what the young coordinator could do with the Broncos in his second year. The Raiders, however, had other plans. After the passing of owner Al Davis in October and an 8-8 record which put them in 3rd place in the AFC West, Raider Nation knew change was coming.
The Raiders hired Allen on January 24. The hearts in Broncos Country were a little heavy that day.
“He knew how to get us ready,” Champ Bailey told the NFL Network in January. “I give him a lot of credit for the success we had this year. . . . He’s one of the most intense coaches I’ve had.”
Back to the Combine. A question comes up about playing the Broncos in Denver.
“I think I’m excited about going up against everybody next year,” Allen said. “I wouldn’t single them out any differently. I obviously have a lot of respect for what they’ve done over there. John Elway, Brian Xanders, John Fox. I think they do a tremendous job. I know they’ll have the team ready to play when we go up against them. We’ll do our best to have our team ready to play going up against them.”
Little did Allen know back then that the Broncos would land the NFL’s biggest free agent of the off season in Peyton Manning. Playing a team with a guy like Manning twice per season would likely make any ex-defensive coordinator and new head coach a little bit nervous.
John Fox believes that Allen is up for job, however.
“I think it’s a tribute to the type of coach Dennis is,” Fox said Wednesday afternoon. “It was very similar to the first year that I was head coach in Carolina hiring Jack Del Rio. Very similar path, fast rising for Dennis as well.”
Del Rio left Carolina after just one year in his defensive coordinator position to take the head coaching job at Jacksonville. Del Rio was there for nearly nine seasons before being fired at the tail end of November.
Allen can only hope for as long of a tenure with the Raiders who seem to go through head coaches faster than head lice spreads through a Kindergarden class. Allen is the 10th Raiders head coach in 18 years. Talk about dipping your hand into a working blender.
It’s hard not to root for Allen, but it’s equally as hard to root for the Raiders.
Come Sunday, Allen is the dark enemy, and hopefully it’s that way for a very long time.