While Dennis Allen may have had little success coaching the Oakland Raiders the last two seasons, let’s be honest here — it was the Oakland Raiders. He had nothing to work with whatsoever.
Allen was appointed that head coaching position in the Bay Area one year after drastically improving the worst defense in the NFL. In 2010, the Denver Broncos ranked No. 32 in the league in total defense. He brought his talents over in 2011 and made some major adjustments, helping guide the Broncos to their first division title since 2005.
How did Allen land that defensive coordinator role in the Mile-High City? He excelled with the New Orleans Saints for four years, first as an assistant defensive line coach (2006-07), then as the secondary coach (2008-10). Of course in 2009, Allen mentored a secondary that produced 26 interceptions, helping lead the club to that historical Super Bowl XLIV win.
He is no head coach, at least for the time being. However, Dennis Allen is a defensive extraordinaire, and he has returned to the Big Easy after obtaining the function as “senior defensive assistant”. The funny thing is, he’s listed above defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the Saints’ coaching pyramid before the list switches to alphabetical order.
Allen seems to be third in line after head coach Sean Payton and assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt. In all honesty, that may mean absolutely nothing as it is only a list, but Ryan is most definitely on the hot seat after poor defensive execution in 2014. Allen will likely be the one to assume that coordinator role if the Saints were to part ways with Ryan.
Regardless, we can expect to see plenty of input from Allen in 2014. In fact, he could have an equal or maybe even bigger say-so than Coach Ryan in what’s actually going on. As a senior defensive assistant, Allen is not assigned to any specific position group. If you think about it, it almost sounds like the Black and Gold will have two defensive coordinators on their payroll.
Coach Payton admires and respects Allen on a higher level than most, and he seems to make that perceptible every chance he gets. I mean nothing derogatory towards Rob Ryan — he can’t control bad coverage, poor tackling and weak pass rushing.
The Saints defense just seemed to be out of sync all year long in 2014. We can blame that on personnel, insufficient player performance, lacking passion and an energy deficiency — it all goes hand-in-hand. I like to call it miscommunication on all ends of the spectrum.
Personally, I, along with countless experts and fans put the bigger blame on the departure of so much veteran guidance on that side of the ball. Yes, I’m referring to the releases of Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer.
The moves were necessary and the unwanted fat needed to be trimmed in order to clear cap space to build for the future. It hurt to see those guys decamp, but between injuries and declined performance over the years, it was just that time.
Here’s what I adore about Dennis Allen — he’s got the intelligence and mindset of a coach, which he is, and the demeanor, energy and passion of a player. Those traits define the characters of the veteran leaders that departed a year ago, and I believe Allen will restore that energy to the Who Dat Nation.
Of course, after a such a disappointing display of football in 2014, the Saints will look to improve their defense via the NFL Draft and free agent market. However, locking up Allen is a HUGE step in the right direction in order to get the club back on track. Installing his passion and acuity with Sean Payton’s brilliance and Rob Ryan’s aggressive schemes could spell danger to opposing teams.
Obviously, I don’t want to get ahead of myself — New Orleans still has a ton of maintenance left to do. However, if the team does happen to realign its course sooner rather than later, we’ll be looking at Dennis Allen. He could be exactly what this organization needs.