While second-year Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is likely safe for 2013, coach Dennis Allen is very much on the hot seat. Going into Sunday's game against Kansas City, a source familiar with the mindset of ownership said that the season's final few games will be crucial toward determining the coach's fate.
If the Raiders are competitive and appear to be getting better, Allen likely will return. But if they get embarrassed, appear to be regressing and don't look like they have a plan, Allen likely will be fired. The 56-31 defeat to the Chiefs was not a promising sign.
It also seems that, even with Mark Davis running the team in place of his late father, the Raiders are still the Raiders. After Allen was hired for the 2012 season, most of his assistants were given two-year contracts. At the end of the season, McKenzie recommended to Davis that the contracts of the assistants retained by the team be rolled over for another year, so that they'd continue to have two years on their deals, as per NFL practice.
Though McKenzie is allegedly in control of all things football, Davis rebuffed the request, meaning that numerous assistants (including defensive coordinator Jason Tarver) have contracts that are about to expire.
I've talked to several Raiders players who believe this is a good coaching staff and coordinators Tarver and Greg Olson (who signed a two-year deal before this season after replacing the fired Greg Knapp) are doing a terrific job with deficient talent. And they think it's wrong to blame Allen for the talent deficiencies caused by the team's well-documented salary cap troubles and decisions that can be traced to McKenzie.
First, the departure of quarterback Carson Palmer, who not only was asked to take a pay cut, but also, according to a source close to Palmer, was insulted by the team's unwillingness to guarantee Palmer's presence on the roster and insistence that he compete with Terrelle Pryor.
That triggered Palmer's rejection of the pay cut and desire to force a trade to Arizona. McKenzie countered by trading for Matt Flynn (disaster) and drafting Tyler Wilson (disaster). Because Olson has found a way to make it work with undrafted free-agent Matt McGloin, the team has performed reasonably well on offense despite a lack of talent at skill positions.
Another McKenzie failing: He came within seconds of using the third overall pick on D.J. Hayden before completing a trade down with the Dolphins and clearly is learning on the job. That said, Davis has preached patience, most recently in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News last week.
But sources say Davis, especially last year, has made his displeasure known after losses, sometimes behaving, according to witnesses, like a "petulant child" on the team plane after unfavorable outcomes. It will be interesting to see how he reacts if the Raiders suffer another bad loss or two and finish 4-12.
One other bit of dysfunction: Typically in the NFL, when a team fires a coach/assistant with an offset clause in the contract (standard), the next team that hires him will give said coach an artificially low salary, forcing the former team to pay the rest of the money. Typically, no one complains -- this is the way it's done.
So, when the Jets fired Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator and the Raiders were set to hire him as their offensive line coach, they kept the salary low. However, the Raiders decided to give Sparano an "assistant head coach" title as well, suggesting increased responsibilities. This did not sit well with the Jets, who filed a grievance with the NFL, claiming the Raiders were intentionally underpaying Sparano and forcing them to pay a disproportionate share.
The grievance, which is being handled by NFL executive vice president Harold Henderson, is still unresolved.